A MOTHER and her children are devastated at the theft of their pet ferrets.

Elaine Hargreaves, 33, said she now fears the three ferrets could have been stolen from her garden in Burnley Road, Colne, to be used in dog baiting.

The theft follows a similar incident last week when 23-year-old veterinary nurse Alison Lambie feared her three ferrets could be used for the illegal activity after they were stolen from her garden in Lingmoor Drive, Burnley.

However, the RSPCA yesterday ruled out any link with similar thefts of the animals across East Lancashire. Elaine said: "I thought kids had stolen them, but then I heard about dog baiting and became really concerned.

"The children are absolutely devastated."

On May 6, Plucker, aged two years and Gulliver, aged six were stolen and two days later nine-year-old SKP was taken from the hutch.

Since then Miss Hargreaves has been doing everything she can to find the pets. She said: "I have contacted the police and the RSPCA, posters are up all over the place and I have been walking the streets asking people if they have seen them.

"If somebody has bought them off the people who stole them they may not know they are stolen."

Heather Holmes, the RSPCAs Regional Press Officer for the North said it was unlikely the thefts were for activities such as dog baiting.

She said: "We have had occasional reports in the past of cats being stolen for dog baiting but these are isolated.

"It is unlikely there is an organised crime element. In these cases it seems the crimes are opportunist and people have seen them and thought I'll have them."

Miss Hargreaves is offering a cash reward for the safe return of her pets. Anybody with information should ring 07944944332.