Ruby (posed by a model): stolen from her home in Dublin. Recession has led to an increase in pet thefts

A family parrot that was stolen from a Dublin house almost a month ago is still on the missing list, with animal experts warning that the theft of animals has greatly increased because of the recession.

"It's been a good few weeks but we're still hoping," said Denise McGowan, whose father Martin owns Ruby, an African Grey parrot. "There's been no news yet but we have had a couple of false leads.

"Someone found a parrot in UCD but it wasn't her. She was definitely stolen. I heard her screams at three in the morning and by the time I got downstairs she was gone. Someone must know where she is. She shouts out her name a lot. I've set up a Facebook page to find her; I don't know what else to do."

Ruby, hand-reared from a chick and very talkative, was a beloved member of the McGowan family before she was snatched from their home in Clonsilla, west Dublin on 1 June.

The family is convinced that Ruby was targeted by thieves specialising in exotic animals because there were mobile phones and wallets by the cage that were left untouched when the robbery took place.

Theft of animals is a growing problem in Ireland with criminals realising that it is a very lucrative business.

Conor Dowling, chief inspector of the ISPCA, said: "There is a huge market for stolen animals at the moment, especially with dogs. There is always a market for any purebred animal. Some are stolen for breeding purposes and others to sell on.

"There are even ways around registering the animals. If a breeder has one registered dog and one similar stolen dog, they breed the two of them simultaneously and pass the puppies off as belonging to the same litter. This makes it look like they have been registered legitimately.

"We came across a parrot last year and nobody came looking for it so this would suggest that it had been stolen. For a parrot like Ruby you're looking at at least €1,000 or more, especially if the bird was hand reared and is speaking," Dowling added.

"It's been happening with dogs for years but there has been an increase in demand for exotic animals such as parrots. There have been reports of an upsurge in demand," he said.

"There are also situations where people are pretending to be dog wardens and are removing dogs from the street. Anyone who has had a pet stolen should go immediately to the gardaí," he added.

It seems that most stolen animals do not remain in this country for long.

"A lot of animals are taken to the UK to be sold. At least 1,000 puppies are exported commercially to the UK every week. This does not include the stolen ones. There's a much bigger market in the UK and it's very easy to transport stolen animals there."

The ISPCA has also seen frequent incidents where a thief will steal an animal and subsequently contact the owner to say they can re-unite them with their pet if there is a reward for their return.