Two would-be dog nappers attacked a man after he thwarted their attempts to steal his beloved pet.
The victim – who is in his 50s – was walking along Wereton Road, Audley, when a man stopped him under the ruse of asking for directions.
His accomplice – a woman – then bent down and tried to unhook his little bichon frise’s lead close to the junction of Dean View.
But the owner managed to grab his pooch before being brutally assaulted, suffering serious injuries to his face.
He was taken to the Royal Stoke University Hospital to have 18 stitches to the wound.
Now police have launched an urgent appeal for witnesses following the incident, which happened at some point between 9pm and 9.30pm on Tuesday (August 11).
The man was described as Eastern European, around 30-years-old with a medium build, dark hair which was long on top and short on the sides.
He was wearing a navy top with jeans and white trainers.
His female accomplice is also believed to be Eastern European, around 30-years-old with a slim build and long dark hair.
She was wearing a light coloured vest top with a skirt or shorts and sparkly sandals.
Both suspects spoke with Polish accents and they travelled to and from the scene in a silver people carrier, which was rundown with a sliding side door.
A relative of the victim wrote on social media: “My brother-in-law was viciously attacked on the bridge near Miles Green.
“This attack saw him receiving 18 stitches to his face. The reason for this was he was protecting his dog from being snatched by a woman and men.
“He can vaguely remember them getting out of a silver car with a sliding door, and a faulty headlight, and asking for directions.
“The driver had a foreign accent and asked directions to Audley.”
She added: “Please take care when you are with your dogs, always be vigilant, as he always thought he was astute, but they took him off guard. If anyone has seen these horrible lowlife get in touch with the police.”
A Staffordshire Police spokesman said: “A dog walker was injured in an assault in Audley and we’re appealing for witnesses to assist with our investigation.
“A man in his 50s was attacked as he walked his pet dog – a white Bichon Frise.
“Sometime between 9pm and 9.30pm, a man approached the victim and asked for directions, as a woman accomplice tried to unhook the dog’s harness and lead.
“The victim grabbed his dog before being assaulted by the pair. He suffered a serious injury to his face which required hospital treatment.
“Officers investigating the incident believe the offenders’ intention was to take the dog and they are appealing for anyone who saw any suspicious behaviour in the area or a vehicle matching the description to come forward.”
Any witnesses or anyone with information can call 101, or report online quoting incident number 795 of 11 August. Alternatively, contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.