Stolen family dog found dumped on roadside and reunited with owners after three years

A Cocker Spaniel has been reunited with her owners three years after disappearing in a suspected dog-knapping.

Francesca Sharp’s eight year-old Cocker Spaniel Bella vanished from her family home in Essex in 2015.

Then, unexpectedly, last month Bella was identified by her microchip after being rescued along with four other dogs that had been dumped on the side of a country road in Kent. As Bella was registered with Petlog, one of the UK’s largest lost and found databases for microchipped pets, she was reunited with Francesca and her family the next morning.

“After being rescued by a kind man from the roadside, Bella was taken to a local dog charity and put into council kennels. Through the power of social media, especially Dog Lost who actually alerted my parents to videos of Bella circulating online, and then having her microchip scanned, we were reunited,” said Francesca.

“I am eternally grateful that she was microchipped and that I kept our contact details up to date with Petlog, as well as Dog Lost proactively helping us to find Bella. We might have never seen her again if things had been different.”

Bella was in a very bad way when she was found, with severe mange on her ears and eyes, and there were signs she had been used to breed illegally on a puppy farm.

Francesca continued “Bella is now home and recovering well. She lives for affection and cuddles and never leaves my side.

“We created an Instagram page, Bella_got_Back, to raise awareness of the dangers of not microchipping your pet and the awful reality of illegal puppy farming. I’m so relieved to have my best friend back but not everyone who has their dog stolen is as lucky, and thousands of stolen dogs and puppies suffer because of puppy farming every year.”

Despite Defra’s recently announced plans to crack down on puppy farms by banning the third party sale of puppies, puppy farmers can still sell directly to the public – over the internet or through newspaper ads - and too many people are not aware of the warning signs they should be looking out for. Research carried out by the Kennel Club has shown that:

  • 12 per cent of people pay for their puppy before they have even seen it, amounting to an estimated one million dogs in the UK bought this way.
  • 630,000 pups out of the estimated nine million strong dog population (7 per cent of those surveyed) opt for home delivery pups.
  • Almost one third (31 per cent) don’t see the puppy in its breeding environment and amongst those eight per cent had their pup delivered to their door.
  • One in five (20 per cent) either don’t see the puppy with its mum, or see it with a dog that they suspect was not the real mum.
  • 23 percent of people think they could have bought from a puppy farm.
  • One in three admit they would now know how to spot a rogue puppy breeder.

Kennel Club Secretary, Caroline Kisko, said: “While Francesca and Bella’s story had a happy ending, so many others end terribly with devastating repercussions. No one ever expects it to happen, but we urge all owners to microchip their pets and keep their details completely up to date so that they have the very best chance of finding their pets if they are ever lost or stolen.

“It’s shocking how many dogs, like Bella, are stolen and used to breed in awful conditions. We continue to campaign for stricter laws to stop puppy farming and urge anyone who is considering buying a puppy to ensure they go to a responsible breeder, such as a Kennel Club Assured Breeder, and know what to look out for, which includes seeing the puppy with its mum and in its actual breeding environment. Rogue dog breeders selling directly to puppy buyers can still be masking terrible conditions and the yawning gap in puppy buyer awareness about how to identify a good breeder leaves people – and dogs – very vulnerable.”

For more information about Puppy Awareness Week, top tips and an infographic in how to buy a puppy visit For further information about Petlog and microchipping, visit