Worried dog owners have started up their own walking groups after a spate of recent dognappings have left them too frightened to walk their pets alone.

The King George V playing fields, in Cressing Road, Braintree, is a popular spot for dog-walkers to exercise their pets but recent thefts have left many owners fearful for their pets safety.

Gemma Gusterson, of Beckers Green, Braintree, whose family dog, Perno, went missing at a car-boot sale in Boreham on July 28, has started arranging the group walks with other concerned owners on Facebook.

“I’m frightened to walk our other dog, Porridge, on my own now but fortunately I’m lucky enough that I have my partner, Anthony, coming with me,” she said.

“I know so many people who are nervous about what happened. I think people need to take steps to ensure their dogs safety and the owners safety too, it’s a bit scary at the moment.

To join a walk search Braintree Dog Owners on Facebook.