A FAMILY are appealing for the safe return of a young dog that has been stolen from one of Hampshire's top attractions.

Bella, a five-month-old French Bulldog, was spirited away from the National Motor Museum, Beaulieu, just minutes after being left in an area reserved for pets.

Her owners, Peter and Abbey Joiner, ran back to the reception area and reported the theft but the culprits had already left the site.

Their eight-year-old daughter Imogen has been left heartbroken.

Mrs Joiner said: "She cries herself to sleep every night and keeps asking why anyone would steal our dog. She even takes Bella's teddy bear to bed with her."

The family, who live at Herne Bay in Kent, were on a short visit to the New Forest when they decided to visit Beaulieu.

Mrs Joiner said: "The museum includes a place where visitors can leave their dogs.

"We went into the building but after about five minutes I began to have second thoughts and went back for Bella, only to discover she'd been stolen. Finding her gone was absolutely devastating.

"A witness saw her being carried away by a scruffy-looking couple and a teenager. I think we missed them by about three minutes.

"We cut short our holiday following the theft - Imogen just wanted to go home.

"Bella is a really friendly dog and does a little dance if anyone greets her, but she has to have a grain-free diet and will be feeling very poorly by now if she isn't being fed properly.

"We're not interested in pressing charges - we just want her back."

The family have taken to social media to publicise the theft in the hope it will result in them being reunited with Bella.

After seeing their appeal Suzie Gohrisch posted: "I cannot imagine the pain you're all going through. I pray you get your baby back."

A museum spokesman said staff were working with Hampshire police following the theft, which took place last Sunday between 3pm and 3.20pm.

He added: "Bella was stolen after being tied up outside the museum. We would urge anyone who saw anything suspicious, or has information about her whereabouts, to contact the police."

Call 101 quoting crime reference number 44180119872.