Torpoint Police in Cornwall have shared a warning on social media urging dog owners to be cautious of dog thieves posing as RSPCA officers.
The warning came after reports of a chilling new tactic being used in Kent. It has been reported that thieves are driving around in a white van with fake RSPCA stickers and branding.
The thieves, who claim to be RSPCA officers, approach victims and attempt to remove their dogs stating that their dog matches a description of a stolen dog.
Police have reminded the public that RSPCA officers will always carry ID on them.
A police spokesman said: “Never let your dog be taken in these circumstances, the RSPCA never take a dog like that. RSPCA officers will have valid ID and if in any doubt call the head office on 03001234999.
“Please also inform the police on 101 with as much detail as possible such as vehicle registration etc.”
There has been a noticeable rise in the number of people reporting dog thefts in recent months. Animal Search, a leading search service for missing pets in the United Kingdom, said: “There has been a huge rise in dog thefts reported to us here at Animal Search UK.
"Demand has skyrocketed because of lockdown, where people now have more time to spend with their new pets and train them.”
Ipswich MP, Tom Hunt, is pushing to make pet theft a specific offence, believing it will empower judges to be able to hand out two-year prison sentences.
In October 2020, Conservative MP Mr Hunt told Westminster Hall: "Covid-19 has made pet theft reform more pressing, not less."
He added: "Our pets are being snatched away from us in record numbers just when we need their companionship the most. Organised crime groups are planning and ruthlessly executing the thefts of our cherished pets.
"The risk of small fines will not stop this type of organised crime."
A spokesman for the Countryside Alliance said: "These reports about the new twisted tactics being used by criminals who are targeting our much loved pets demonstrate they are becoming more sophisticated in their methods.
Please be vigilant and report suspicious behaviour to the police."
The Countryside Alliance has issued advice for gun dog and dog theft prevention, which can be found here.