The RSPCA is issuing a warning to dog owners after a concerning incident in London in which a man posed as a charity worker in an attempt to gain access to a puppy.

The charity was alerted after a man knocked on a resident’s door in the New Southgate area of north London.).

The man said he was from the RSPCA, had received a complaint about a barking dog and asked to see the owner’s golden retriever puppy.

RSPCA Chief Inspector Clare Dew, who leads part of the London team, 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.

“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.”

They also alerted police.

The RSPCA is now issuing a warning to Londoners, as well as people across England & Wales, to always check the identity of officers who come to your home.

Clare added: “We would like to remind and reassure the public that our inspectors and rescue officers all wear branded uniforms and carry ID.

“If one of our officers knocks on your door, please ask to see their ID and check their uniform for branding. Our staff wear navy blue uniforms with the RSPCA logo, as well as white shirts with black ties and black epaulets.

“Most of our officers drive either white vans or fully branded, wrapped RSPCA vans. All staff vehicles in London feature large branding imagery so are also easy to spot.”

RSPCA officers have no powers of entry to homes, gardens, land or vehicles, unless accompanying police on a court warrant.

Clare added: “Our staff can only access your property if you give them permission and can only see your pets with your approval. If you are at all concerned that someone isn’t who they say they are then you do not need to grant them access and you can call our hotline on 0300 1234 999 to check their credentials.”

Dog thefts on the rise

The charity is urging all pet owners to be on alert after a reported increase in pet thefts during lockdown, as the demand for pets – and their value – has skyrocketed.

“We’re concerned that this man may have been posing as an RSPCA inspector in order to snatch this puppy, and that’s extremely worrying,” Clare said. “We understand that there have been a surge 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’d urge people to take extra precautions to protect their pets from thieves by neutering them, ensuring they’re microchipped with up-to-date contact details registered and ensuring they wear a collar with an ID tag or embroidered contact details.

We’d advise dog owners never to leave their pets tied up outside shops or alone in cars, to ensure their dog has a good recall and doesn’t stray too far when being walked off-lead, and ensure gardens are secure with locked gates.

“If you are concerned someone may have posed as an RSPCA officer or another agency worker please report the incident to us and to the local police. And if you believe your pet has been stolen please contact the police as soon as possible.”

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