By Western Daily Press | Posted: April 24, 2015
By Katie Pavid
A woman whose partially sighted dog went missing has been blackmailed after appealing for help to find him.
Vivienne Garton received messages from strangers saying they would cut up her beloved pet up if she did not stump up hundreds of pounds in ransom money.
The 65-year-old has been looking for her West Highland White Terrier Ben, since he went missing on April 12.
But posters she put up near her house in the Knowle area of south Bristol, have been torn down, and people who are helping to search for Ben got calls demanding money from the family.
Retired Mrs Garton lives with her four grandchildren, aged between 18 and eight, and her husband.
Charity DogLost and Holly Hedge Animal Sanctuary in Barrow Gurney, North Somerset, have been helping with the appeal to find Ben, and workers at DogLost have received demands for money to guarantee the pet’s safety.
Mrs Garton said: “When the messages got to me, I felt sick. I have had him for ten years, he is my little baby. I just want him to come back home safe. I’m so worried about him. Police officers told me they are treating the calls as blackmail.
“I don’t know who could do that and send those messages. I don’t know if they were a hoax or if he has really been stolen by someone. It is scary.”
Ben is ten years old, partially sighted, partially deaf, and cannot walk for long distances.
He disappeared from the family home on Connaught Road on Sunday, April 12.
Mrs Garton, who suffers from arthritis and has had a pacemaker fitted, said: “We were cooking Sunday lunch and he was sitting in front of the oven.
“I shooed him away so I could cook and then he went out and didn’t come back.
“Later, when I went into the garden, there was a little hole in the hedge that he could have got through, but it is very out of character for him not to come back.
Mrs Garton’s plight has caught the attention of many people in Knowle, who have started a social media campaign to find Ben.
“We are all worried sick and must have driven about 300 miles in the past week just looking for him. Holly Hedge Animal Sanctuary have also been really helpful in alerting people. The entire family is worried and stressed out about him so it is nice to have the support of friends.
“We’ve always been a dog-loving family, I have had dogs ever since I was little. Ben is the smallest one we’ve ever had and he is a member of the family now.”
Michelle Pibworth, who runs a Facebook page for lost and found pets in the Bristol area and neighbouring South Gloucestershire, said: “Ben is a little bit overweight as he loves his treats and cannot walk long distances and sometimes suffers from eczema.
“If you have Ben just get in touch, there will be no question asked. He needs to be back with his family.”
Avon and Somerset police force said: “We’ve received reports of threatening phone calls in relation to a lost dog. We’re investigating an incident of blackmail. Anyone who has any information should call 101 and speak to PSCO 6956 Rudge.”