Belfast pet owner's anguish at £200 ransom demand for return of Staffordshire terrier Tiny
A distraught dog lover who issued an appeal about his missing pet after he feared she had been stolen on New Year's Day has been left stunned after receiving a bizarre ransom request.
Three-year-old Staffordshire terrier Tiny went missing from her west Belfast home in the early hours of Sunday morning while her owner, Stephen Flynn, was drinking with friends in the garden.
Mr Flynn (22) had first feared that his pet had been captured by a dog fighting gang.
But last night he received notification that the animal was being held in the Ardoyne area and that he would have to cough up £200 to get her back.
He told the Belfast Telegraph that the callous theft and twisted ransom request has left him with conflicting feelings.
"I genuinely felt really bad before last night, it was kind of like losing a relative," he said.
"Tiny turned three in September and we have had her since birth.
"Right now it's more anger and disbelief. I can't believe someone would do this, but then, at the same time, I am kind of glad just to know that she is still alive," Mr Flynn added. The three friends had returned to Mr Flynn's house in Lagmore after a New Year's Eve night out.
They continued drinking and were listening to music in the garden shed when Tiny disappeared.
"We didn't hear anything," he recalled.
"It was really weird and I was actually quite confused.
"I know she was still here at 2am and I know that she was gone by 5am, so obviously somebody came and took her during those hours," he explained.
The young men had been going in and out of the house to get food throughout the night, and are baffled that someone was able to climb over the gate and enter the property through the conservatory door without them noticing.
Mr Flynn continued: "We were listening to music. It wasn't too loud but obviously loud enough that we didn't hear anyone sneaking into the garden and going into the house."
He has had the same family of dogs for three generations.
He described Tiny as the "friendliest" dog who would "run to anyone to have her back scratched".
Mr Flynn stated that he has no intention of paying the ransom, and has contacted the police, but he admitted he did think about handing over the cash.
"I was on the verge of paying the money," he said.
"I would post it tomorrow if I thought it was the only way to get her back.
"You can't really put a price on her."