A pet breeder discovered 70 dogs stolen by a suspected gang as he searched for his own missing spaniels.
Tony Cronin began investigating after he found that two litters of puppies and five of his spaniels had gone, and was tipped off about a possible dog theft group.
He found the stolen dogs – worth up to £40,000 – in cages and roaming free at a site in Carmarthenshire, Wales, and police were called to the scene to make two arrests.
The thefts came as lockdown drove a spike in dog thefts, with demand for pooches swelling.
Cronin said: "It was very really well hidden which is why they use it, and as we were going up the track a huge group of dogs came out to greet us.
"There were Westies, Labradors, pugs – everything running at us barking like mad.
"Right in the middle of the group was one of my own dogs running towards me, her tail was between her legs as she was frightened.
"She was quite timid and then she saw me and she ran towards me and leaped into my arms and that was that."
A total of 22 dogs have been returned to their owners while 46 are still in kennels, according to Dyfed Powys Police.
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Puppy prices have more than doubled in lockdown, and missing pets site Dog Lost reports a 170% increase in stolen canines.
Dyfed Powys Police's Superintendent Robyn Mason said: "Dog theft has certainly increased with more people wanting dogs during the pandemic.
"The cost of dogs is going up which means there’s more traction for people to steal the dogs and sell them so it has definitely increased over the last year."
The RSPCA urged people to check the ID of anyone claiming to be from the charity.
A spokesman said: "We would like to remind and reassure the public that our inspectors and rescue officers all wear branded uniforms and carry identification.
"If one of our officers knocks on your door, please ask to see their ID and check their uniform for branding.
"Our staff wear navy blue uniforms with the RSPCA logo, as well as white shirts with a black or blue tie and black epaulets."
Two people arrested in connection with the thefts have been released on bail.
The story is due to feature on the Welsh channel S4C's Y Byd Ar Bedwar (The World At Four) at 8.35pm on Wednesday.
Watch: Dogs held to ransom and used for intensive breeding as gangs cash in on lockdown puppy demand