OWNERS of a brown cocker spaniel are appealing to members of the public to help find their beloved pet.

Pete Bowden took his dog, Bracken, for a walk on September 1 at East Harptree Woods on the Mendip hills.

Less than ten minutes into the walk, Pete called the names of his five dogs, but only four returned.

Judy Bowden, Pete’s wife, searched the woods until 1am and then returned again to look at 4am.

“At 4am I knew he wasn’t there but I was still searching to satisfy myself that I had left no stone unturned," she said.

“Bracken knows the area really well, it just doesn’t add up.

“Dogs always check back with their owners on walks – I do think he’s been taken.

“We have searched so much, had drones out and even done some thermal imaging but we’ve found nothing.

“It has been so hard emotionally…he is Bracken Bowden…he is family.”

Somerset County Gazette: Bracken Bowden, picture taken on the morning before Bracken went missing at East Harptree WoodsBracken Bowden, picture taken on the morning before Bracken went missing at East Harptree Woods

Mrs Bowden has been in touch with Lisa Dean, founder of Beauty’s Legacy and volunteer at DogLost, to help with the search.

Ms Dean has created social media pages and posters to make sure everyrone in the area is looking for the spaniel.

See the Facebook page here

And Bracken has become a social media sensation.

“He’s become quite a high profile dog now and I hope somebody sees him and says ‘that’s Bracken Bowden and he needs to go home’,” said Mrs Bowden.

The couple suspect Bracken has been stolen and have since been in contact with the police.

An Avon and Somerset Police spokesperson said: “We’re carrying out enquiries into a report of a stolen dog.

“The dog, a spaniel called Bracken, went missing in East Harptree Woods at about midday on Tuesday 1 September.

“If you have any information about this incident, or were in this area at the time the dog went missing, please call us on 101 and give the call handler the reference number 5220198511.”

Ms Dean added: “During lockdown we have seen a surge in dog theft.

“In the last 12 months figures have increased by 65% in Britain. As prices for puppies have soared, so has the crime rate.

“The demand is so high and dog theft is a high profit low risk crime.

“People are paying extortionate prices for dogs, and in effect feeding the crime.

“Owners offer large rewards in desperation to buy back their stolen dogs, and dog theft has become a lucrative business.

“The message is to not leave your dog left unattended. Make sure your dog’s microchip details are up to date, and be vigilant at all times.”

Mrs Bowden has said there will be a "substantial reward" for bringing Bracken home.

If anyone has seen him, call Mrs Bowden on 01761 221390 or contact the police on 101 and quote the crime reference number above.