A cavoodle puppy on its way to a new home in Sydney has vanished, with the heartbroken family who were expecting the pooch offering $2000 for information leading to her return.
Police are investigating reports the tiny dog named Jewel was stolen from a pet transport van parked in Armidale in the early hours of Sunday morning.
Separate specialist pet detectives hired by the family are also on the case, and exploring all possibilities.
Watch the latest news and stream for free on 7plus >>
The blue-eyed pup was handed to pet transport company Dogmovers Pet Transport, by a Queensland dog breeder just before 3pm local time on Saturday, and began her interstate journey to Sydney.
But during an overnight rest stop outside the Armidale Jockey Club on Barney St at 1am, Jewel became unsettled and was placed, along with a chihuahua also being transported by the company, into an enclosed, but unlocked, trailer attached to the van.
The driver woke up at 7am. It was sometime between 1am and 7am that Jewel was reportedly stolen.
Homeowner’s shock as crocodile discovered in backyard: ‘Unusual’
Rodney’s shed was being tidied every night. Then he set up a camera
“The chihuahua was accounted for,” Arthur & Co pet detective Anne-Marie Curry told 7NEWS.com.au.
When Jewel’s owner-to-be Emma Francisco found out her puppy was missing during a phone call with the transport company at 8.45am on Sunday, she was left speechless, and immediately hung up the phone.
The transport company had made a report to the police 10 minutes before they called Francisco.
“She was going to be a part of our family, and our children were very much looking forward to her arrival, and we are all very, very, very heartbroken,” Francisco told 7NEWS.com.au.
“I was absolutely devastated.
“I had two little girls who were sitting here waiting for her arrival. I’ve barely slept, I’m constantly scouring social media … with every hope for a miracle.
“My husband didn’t even go to work yesterday because I’ve been an absolute wreck.”
Jewel was reportedly stolen. Credit: FacebookThe driver was reportedly sleeping in their van parked in the Armidale Jockey Club carpark when the dog was allegedly taken. Credit: Google Maps
Dogmovers Pet Transport said in a statement that the driver transporting Jewel was unfamiliar with the van she was driving, and was unable to lock the trailer before she (the driver) took a nap in the van.
“In this case, our driver and other staff failed to follow our normal procedures before her departure on this trip, and she did not have the appropriate keys for the trailer with her. It is not normal for our trailers or vans to be unlocked overnight,” Dogmovers Pet Transport said.
Dogmovers Pet Transport took full responsibility for the reported theft and apologised for the loss.
“It is indisputable and undeniable that Dogmovers is responsible for the loss of Jewel and that we should be held accountable,” it said.
“We are as shocked by this event as you all are, and we take our responsibility to Jewel’s new family, her breeder and our other clients seriously.
“Mistakes were made, we should have done better, and we will honour our responsibilities to those involved and strive to ensure this can never happen again.”
Pet detective Curry said there are conflicting reports about whether the trailer door was found open when the driver woke to check on the dogs at 7am.
“Like with any investigations, we are exploring all scenarios because that’s our job,” she said.
“In terms of the puppy being stolen, we are currently investigating whether it was a targeted theft for personal gain, or a member of the community who had welfare concerns and thought they were rescuing the puppy.
“But, either way, we are just appealing for the person to come forward … or to drop the dog anonymously to a vet in NSW.”
CCTV footage is being reviewed by Curry, and Francisco is now offering a $2000 reward for information leading to the safe return of Jewel.
“We’re just trying to do anything we can to retrieve her, if someone does actually have her,” Francisco said.
“She’s got a loving home, if someone has got her, they need to hand her in.
“I’m hoping for the best but expecting the worst.”
NSW Police have urged anyone with relevant CCTV or dashcam footage to contact Crime Stoppers.