PUBLISHED: 14:20 03 December 2009 | UPDATED: 17:24 25 August 2010

One of Rob's pals pining

One of Rob's pals pining

A FARMER whose ewe was stolen and driven 15 miles before it was seen on CCTV as yobs took it on a trolley joyride says it is the SECOND time his flock has been targeted. Stephen Jones, of Harvel House Farm, in Meopham, said the sheep rustling prank ec

FED UP: Farmer Jos Jones.

A FARMER whose ewe was stolen and driven 15 miles before it was seen on CCTV as yobs took it on a trolley joyride says it is the SECOND time his flock has been targeted.

Stephen Jones, of Harvel House Farm, in Meopham, said the 'sheep rustling' prank echoes that of one 15 years earlier.

The RPCA condemned the pranksters who stole the terrified animal, named by bemused Asda supermarket staff as 'Rob' despite it being a female, before whirling it around at the Bexleyheath store at 3am last Friday.

Mr Jones said: "I have had sheep stolen before and this isn't the first time it has reappeared somewhere strange. We had one end up in McDonalds in Gravesend about 15 years ago.

"This one is particularly strange though as you have to wonder what people are thinking when they decide to take it and drive it to a supermarket 15 miles down the road. I imagine it was inspired by something they were smoking."

The animal, one of about 1,000 that the farmer owns, has since been recovered by RSPCA officers who slammed the yobs and said they are determined to track them down through the store's CCTV.

It is against the law to cause an animal unnecessary suffering to an animal. The maximum sentence is six months in prison and or a £5,000 fine.

Mr Jones' son Jos, 18, who cares for the flock, said: "The first we knew about it was when the RSPCA called on Saturday morning.

"It's actually quite hard to catch a sheep so I'd expect the people who did it must have known what they were doing."

A spokesperson for the RSPCA said: "Clearly this was a premeditated act, as it wouldn't have just been wandering around nearby. They have literally driven up in their van or something, and grabbed it.

"This was clearly done for somebody's selfish entertainment with no regard for the animal's welfare.

"The poor sheep must have been terrified as it was wheeled around the store."

But Rob's ordeal will not end there due to laws that mean it will take a fortnight after the ewe was rescued to reintegrate to the flock.

The distraught animal is being cared for in a holding area by the RSPCA due to animal movement restriction laws.

It will be returned to the farm tomorrow but will have to spend about a week in isolation at the farm before being reintegrated with the others.

Mr Jones added: "It'll have to go into isolation again as it has been moved from one holding area to another. It's all down to laws to prevent the spread of infection."

But with so many sheep Mr Jones said it was unlikely he would have realised pranksters had nabbed the sheep without it being identified through its tag.

He said: "All our sheep are tagged with an identification number so we can track them through the animal health service

"I would have had to carry out a full field by field count to notice the theft. Without doing a count there is no way I would have known."

The animal was unharmed and rescued by quick-thinking Asda staff as the yobs were spotted pushing it through the doors of the store before fleeing.

Store manager Joe Lock said: "We were shocked to discover that a poor sheep had been wheeled into our store."

Witnesses to the incident or anyone with information are urged to contact the RSPCA on 0300 1234 999.

Strange animal thefts or escapes are rare but not unique.

Two weeks ago police helped recover a flock of North Country Mule sheep that were taken from a farm in the village of Catthorpe in Leicestershire. They were worth about £4,500. It took a combined two-week effort by Northamptonshire and Leicestershire Police to round them up.

In the spring this year farms across the UK reported a surge in piglet thefts. This included 500 being taken from a farm in Staffordshire.

Five monkeys were stolen from Drusilla's Zoo in East Sussex in June 2006. Three silvery marmosets and two Geoffroy's spider monkeys were nabbed from their cages.

SpongeBob the squirrel monkey was found playing with a bunch of school children in Clapham, South London, three days after going missing from his enclosure at Chessington World of Adventure, Surrey. The monkey was returned safe and sound.

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