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Italy's black market moving thousands of dogs: Report

A stowaway Chihuahua was found in a checked suitcase at LaGuardia Airport in New York, March 6, 2015.
Transportation Security Administration
A stowaway Chihuahua was found in a checked suitcase at LaGuardia Airport in New York, March 6, 2015.

Italy may have a dognapping problem.

Thousands of chihuahuas and other smaller "toy" dogs were stolen from their owners across the country in 2015, according to a report in The Telegraph.

Swiped pooches were either ransomed back to their owners, or sold in a thriving black market estimated to be worth around 5 million euros ($5.61 million).

Citing data from the Italian Association for the Defense of Animals and the Environment (AIDAA), the report noted that around 3500 dogs were stolen in Europe's third largest economy last year, more than double the prior year's estimate of 1400. Overall, dog thefts in Italy tripled overall last year, with as many as 30,000 different breeds taken from their owners.

The compact canines are apparently very popular, and frequently sell for about 2500 euros ($2800) each, The Telegraph reported.

AIDAA estimates that around 10 per cent of dogs stolen are exported to northern Europe for resale, the publication reported, and frequently end up in Germany.

The full report can be found at the Telegraph's website.