A horrified couple offered a £500 reward for the safe return of their two beloved dogs – only to find they had been shot dead by a mystery farmer.
Hundreds shared social media appeals when Loki, a 17 month-old Malamute, and Odin, a seven month Siberian Husky, disappeared on Wednesday.
Owners Neil and Kat Giles posted the reward to anyone who found their “beautiful boys” who disappeared out of their front door in Cheltenham, Glos.
But hours later they had a call from police saying the dogs had been shot dead by a farmer for ‘worrying’ his sheep.
Officers then delivered the dead dogs back to their home – but refused to identify the landowner.
Neil, 35, a capital projects manager with the NHS, said: “These dogs weren’t rabid or stray. They were in immaculate condition.
“Maybe they were worrying sheep but they’re gone now. Sheep don’t curl up on the end of his [the farmer’s] bed.”
Neil and Kat, 23, a former Tesco worker, scoured the streets looking for their beloved pets and handed out posters before they got the devastating news.
Kat wrote on Facebook: “I am breaking apart, please help find my boys. They are not dogs or pets to us they are our babies and family please help!”
Neil added: “The police phoned and said they wanted to talk in person which I thought was odd.
“They came to our house and said Loki and Odin had been shot.”
After being told of the deaths Kat posted: “It’s really not sinking in at all.
“You will always be our little boys. Gave us such beautiful memories we will never forget.”
She later said: “A tranquiliser gun would have saved their lives and had the same effect.
“I have been trying to get pregnant for so long and they were my children, but no-one would understand that. People see them as just pets.”
The animal-loving couple are active members charity One Every Hour, a dog rescue and rehoming charity.
Odin was a rescue dog while Loki was a fifth generation pedigree.
Neil said: “People have said we are irresponsible dog owners but they have no idea.
“We are dog lovers and fosterers.
“We’ve had complete strangers from around the world show their support.
“It makes you understand that the majority of the world are dog lovers.”
The couple are now setting up a petition calling on farmers to use tranquiliser guns instead of deadly firearms.
Under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 and the Dogs Act 1953 there are clauses protecting both the farmer and dog owner.
Shooting a dog can be considered as damaging the property of the owner and the person responsible can be charged with criminal damage.
But farmers and livestock owners can defend their decision to shoot if they can prove the dogs pose a direct threat to their animals.
If the dog is “at large” (not on a lead or under control) in a field or enclosure, the farmer can also use this to defend their decision – but must report the incident within 48 hours.
Gloucestershire Police yesterday revealed that the two dogs were killed by a landowner around a mile from their home soon after they disappeared.
A spokesman said: “Officers were called at around 8.30am yesterday morning after the owner of land on a farm off Swindon Lane in Cheltenham had shot two Alaskan Malamute Husky dogs suspected of sheep worrying.
“As the law states, the land owner had reported the incident within 48 hours. As investigations are ongoing it is not appropriate to comment further at this time.”
The National Farmers’ Union said shooting dogs should be a last resort for farmers.
David Jones, regional communications adviser, said: “In general terms, farmers are within their rights to shoot dogs that are worrying sheep.
“They must actually catch the dogs in the act and they must have tried every other means to stop them.
“But it is a serious step to take which causes distress for the farmer and owners and should be the absolute last resort.”