An RSPCA spokesperson said: “We have heard anecdotally that there has been a rise in the number of pet thefts during the past year due to the value of many breeds and the demand for pets during lockdown.
“We’re also concerned about some reports in pockets of the country that a handful of people may have been posing as RSPCA inspectors in order to try to take dogs. In the sightings of vans we have looked into so far – they appear to be genuine RSPCA inspectors going about their normal duties and sometimes vans are not branded with our logo for security reasons.
“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.
“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.”
Tips to keep your dogs safe from theft:
· Don’t leave your dog outside a shop on his own or in a car alone.
· Teach your dog a reliable recall for when you are out walking.
· Check your garden to make sure it is secure and if you have a gate then fit with a lock.
· Neuter your pet as this can reduce the likelihood of roaming.
· Make sure your pet is wearing a collar with an ID tag and that it is up to date. It is a legal requirement for a dog to have an ID tag with your name and address on it. The RSPCA also recommends including your mobile phone number on any ID tag as this can help reunite you with your pet quickly should they ever get lost or stolen.
· Microchip your pet and keep the details up to date so that if your pet does go missing or is stolen then there is a higher chance they can be reunited. It is a legal requirement to have your dog microchipped in England and Wales.
· Keep recent photographs of your pet and make a note of any distinguishing features.
If the worst does happen, the RSPCA suggests the following steps should be taken as soon as possible in order to have the best chance of owners being reunited with their pets:
· Check your home and local area thoroughly.
· If you suspect your animal may have been stolen, please contact the police.
· Call your microchip company so they can flag your pet as missing. This will also alert to them anyone trying to re-register the same microchip number.
· Call your local RSPCA, and other animal welfare organisations.
· Contact your local vets.
· Talk to neighbours, postman, milkman etc, as they may have seen the animal or observed something suspicious at the time they went missing.
· Put flyers on notice boards & through letter boxes.