DOG owners of mastiff and related breeds around Morisset and Cooranbong have been warned to be alert and take precautions to protect them from being stolen and used in illegal dog fights.
Dog fights hit the news last week after the body of Tank, a much loved pet bulldog stolen from Rutherford, was found dumped at the side of the road close to his home.
David Atwell, vice president of Society of companion Animal Rescuers, said recent reports of animals stolen from around Cooranbong, Morisset and Toronto were disquieting.
"There appears to be a sudden increase in the number of incidents in those areas," Mr Atwell said.
"In the early hours of Sunday morning one of our own committee members foiled an attempt to steal her dogs from the backyard of her home in Warners Bay. She had wisely started keeping her dogs in at night and foiled the attempt," Mr Atwell said.
He said while mastiff breeds were the most targeted, other dogs were often stolen as bait animals.
"A staffy was anonymously dumped at Muswellbrook pound which had all the hallmarks of being a bait dog. Its teeth had been filed down and it was covered in bite injuries," he said.
"My advice right now is to get neighbours and friends to keep an eye on your property all the time to note anything odd and keep your dogs locked indoors at night.
"The only way we can fight this problem is for people to report suspicious behaviour and dob in dog fights and organisers anonymously on Crimestoppers 1800 333000," Mr Atwell said.