The RSPCA is warning the public to be vigilant after reports of dog thieves posing as RSPCA officers in order to gain access to dogs across the UK.
Two men reportedly attempted to take a woman’s dog while out on a walk in Dorset, claiming to be RSPCA officers. Similar incidents recently took place in Suffolk, London, and Wales.
In an incident which took place in London on 13 January, a man knocked on a resident’s door in the New Southgate area claiming to be from the RSPCA and to have received a complaint about a dog barking. He then asked to see the resident’s Golden Retriever puppy.
RSPCA Chief Inspector Clare Dew said, “Thankfully the dog owner was immediately suspicious of the man, who was wearing no uniform. They secured the door with the security chain and refused to allow the man access to the puppy.
She added, “The man left the address and the puppy’s owner contacted us. I checked to see if we had any officers in the area at the time and we didn’t.”
RSPCA officers have no powers of entry to homes, gardens, land or vehicles, unless accompanying police on a court warrant.
Lewis Taylor, RSPCA Chief Inspector for Dorset and Wiltshire, said, “We would like to remind and reassure the public that all of our officers wear branded uniforms and carry issued RSPCA identification.
“If an RSPCA officer is in contact with you, or visits your home and you are unsure of their credentials, then please ask to see their official ID and look for the RSPCA badge on their clothing.
Taylor added, “If you have taken these steps and are concerned someone isn’t who they say they are, you can always ring our national call centre on 0300 1234 999 for confirmation. If you believe someone is impersonating a member of our staff please report the incident to us and to your local police.”
From a legal standpoint, the theft of a pet is treated no more seriously than the theft of a mobile phone or a TV set. This makes pet theft a low-risk, high-reward crime with huge potential gain – and as the price of dogs skyrocketed due to the high demand during the Covid crisis, so did reports of dog theft.
Despite reports of pet theft increasing year on year, calls to make pet theft a specific offence with custodial sentences have so far been ignored.
Main image by RSPCA