A 60-year-old woman is ‘in pieces’ after she said violent thieves punched her to the floor and stole her beloved dog.

The assault happened in East London over the bank holiday weekend as she was walking to the park with her Staffordshire bull terrier, Archie.

A friend said the woman has stopped eating and sleeping as she struggles to recover from the attack in Mile End at the hands of two men.

An appeal poster shared on Facebook reads: ‘Please look out for our beautiful Archie.

‘Owner punched to the ground by two white well-built males.’

It adds that the Staffie was bundled into a van before the thieves fled the scene on Sunday.

‘No questions asked, reward for safe return,’ the poster says.

A friend told the MyLondon local news website the woman was shoved to the ground after they approached in a stealthy manner.

‘They didn’t say anything. They came quietly, quickly from behind and pushed her forcefully,’ she said.

‘She hurt her back. She is shaking violently.

‘She is not eating or drinking from what I can see. All she wants is Archie home.’

The friend who requested they both remain anonymous added: ‘She walked the streets all night in the hope that these a**holes might have dumped him.’

Details of the theft have been logged on the website Dog Lost.

It says Archie is an older Staffie with a brindle patterned black and white coat.

He was adopted from Battersea Dogs and Cats Home six years ago and has been microchipped and neutered. The microchip has been updated to mark Archie as missing or stolen.

The incident has been reported to the Metropolitan Police, but no arrests have yet been made.

A spokesperson for the force said: ‘Police were called at approximately 5.05pm on Sunday, May 2 to reports of a theft in Norbiton Road, E14.

‘Officers attended and it was reported a woman was pushed to the floor by two men who stole her dog.

‘She received minor injuries. Enquiries are ongoing. No arrests have been made.’

‘Dognapping’ has boomed in the UK as criminals look to cash in on the rising prices of pet dogs.

In the first six months of the pandemic, as many as 2.2 million people welcomed a dog into their home.

Around 2,000 dogs are usually stolen in the UK every year, but this figure more than doubled over the Covid pandemic.

Since the beginning of 2020, dog theft has surged by around 250%, with the hike being blamed on the rise in demand for pets to keep families company as they work from home.

Stealing a dog is currently classed as a property crime, which campaigners say fails to recognise that the animals can be as much a part of a family as a person.

This weekend prime minister Boris Johnson pledged harsher punishments for dog thieves as part of a broader crackdown on criminals.

He said a pet theft task force has been set up by justice secretary and Lord chancellor Robert Buckland to make sure the ‘criminal justice system is dealing properly with anyone who is so malicious as to steal a dog’.

‘If you are cynical and nasty enough to steal a dog, in an organised gang, then you will almost certainly be party to other types of crime as well,’ he wrote in the Mail on Sunday.

The most desirable breeds of dogs are costing residents up to £4,000, while Staffordshire bull terriers are the most common breed targeted by thieves.  

The friend of Archie’s owner said: ‘I think from a distance Archie looks a young dog, and Staffies are popular dogs.

‘But once they get a good look at him they will realise he is actually an old dog.

‘We’re hoping that he is dropped at a vets or somewhere and he will be recovered quickly.

‘He has been with this family for six years. His family is in pieces, they are not sleeping.

‘We would appeal to you to bring this dog home and end this pain.’

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