A SIX-year-old schoolboy has made a heart-wrenching plea for thieves to return his beloved pug dog.

Levi Elliott has made a direct plea to the two thieves caught on CCTV calmly walking off down the street after stealing his seven-year-old pet dog Oliver.

One of the thieves is seen carrying the dog under his arm after taking him from a garden in the Infirmary area of Blackburn.

St Anthony’s RC Primary School pupil Levi said: “I am really sad Oliver has been taken. He is my little buddy.

“We play together all the time. We play hide and seek and he loves it when I tickle his belly.

“I miss him lots.

“I really hope the people who took him bring him back very soon.”

His dad Blackburn University student Mark Elliott, 37, fears his much loved family pet could become the latest casualty of dog baiting if he is not found soon.

The father-of-two, of Infirmary Street, said: “I let Oliver out at 2pm on Monday and when I went back outside to get him, there was no sign.

“I ran out trying to find him but had no luck.

“Instantly then I knew he had been stolen.

“I am terrified he will be used for dog baiting. He is a real big part of my family. My two children love him, especially Levi, who has grown up with him all his life.

“I put an appeal on Facebook that night and one of my friends who lives in nearby Mosley Street said he would have a look on his CCTV.

“I was gobsmacked when he told me you could clearly see two lads walking down the street carrying Oliver under their arm.”

Mr Elliott, who also has a teenage daughter, has reported the theft to the police who have now launched an investigation.

He said: “Oliver is a pedigree and I have all of his papers. Because of that I also worry he might have been stolen to be used as a stud.

“I paid £800 for him seven years ago but I know you can easily sell a pug puppy for around £1,200 now.”

The theft comes amid concerns dognapping is on the increase to fuel dog baiting and free breeding.

Dog-baiting and dog fighting has been banned since 1835 under the Cruelty to Animals Act.

But some animal groups fear thefts are on the increase with fighting digs encouraged to attack more gentle breeds for practice.

Pug breeder Kath Storey, of Hawthorn Avenue, Oswaldtwistle said: “I think dognapping is a bigger problem than anyone realises.

“In the last month alone I have heard of five pugs being stolen, as well as several other dogs of a different breed.

“Thieves know they can make a quick quid with them. Earlier this month, two pugs were stolen from a house in Bradford. Luckily, they were found quickly because the owner put the details all over Facebook.

“Pugs are becoming more and more popular because of their temperament and puppies can fetch more than a £1,000 each.

“Thieves are even taking micro-chipped dogs and selling them in pubs.”

John Duxworth, of the Sibes and Sled Dogs Husky Welfare group, said: “Dognapping is a huge problem in East Lancashire.

“Theft of pedigree dogs has increased massively in recent years and they can be used for breeding or dog baiting.

“Back street breeders can make up to a lot of moneyfor each pug puppy they sell.”

Vince Hogan, editor of Our Dogs, a weekly breeders newspaper, said: “A pedigree puppy or dog sold with its papers clearly has a higher value then one that may be resold in the pub or in similar circumstances.

“We would warn anyone buying a dog in suspicious circumstances to be very careful and obviously wish the owners good luck in finding the missing pug in question. “Equally there are a number of pet watch organisations in existence to help reunite owners and lost animals.”

A police spokesman said: “I can confirm that we are investigating the theft of the dog from Infirmary Street in Blackburn.

“if anyone has any information or has seen anything suspicious in the area I urge them to call police on 101.”