Tauranga City Council is urging residents to remain vigilant after receiving a complaint from a Judea dog owner who says someone posing as animal control officer visited his property in what was believed to be an attempt to steal his dog.
The complainant, who posted a warning on Tauranga's Buy, Sell, Swap Facebook page, said the imposter tried to steal his 7-month-old pup.
We would like to remind residents that our animal control officers wear uniforms, drive council sign-written vehicles and always carry a warrant when visiting a dog owner regarding a complaint.
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"Luckily our neighbour was home and stopped him before he got the chance to take her.
But he told her [the neighbour] there had been many complaints made about her barking and that if there's one more they'll re-home or put her down," he said on Facebook.
Council's animal services acting team leader David Shearman said this was the first and only complaint of its kind the council had received.
"But the incident is a concern and we're glad no harm came to the puppy."
Mr Shearman said it was concerning when anyone impersonated a council officer.
"We would like to remind residents that our animal control officers wear uniforms, drive council sign-written vehicles and always carry a warrant when visiting a dog owner regarding a complaint."
Mr Shearman said residents should ask to see their warrant if they had concerns, and call the council if they would like to also confirm whether an officer had been dispatched to the location.
Police and council staff made contact with the complainant and the neighbour, who confirmed the person did not attempt to take the dog at the time, he said.
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"We recommend that people contact the police immediately should they see anyone suspicious on their property," Mr Shearman said.
Acting Western Bay area commander Inspector Karl Wright-St Clair agreed.
He said the incident was investigated, and the matter had been left in the hands of council.
"Hopefully it was an isolated incident."
Puppy Love Dog Training owner Chelles McIntosh said these incidents needed to be treated more seriously, as dogs being stolen for dog-baiting and underground fighting rings happened more frequently than people realised.
"I have also heard reports about people going around neighbourhoods whistling for dogs, and when challenged saying they're looking for their lost dog.
"We need people to be more on to it. Everyone has a mobile phone, so they need to use it to take a photo or video of the offender and their car.
"Also note down the make and model of the vehicle, a description of the imposter, including any tattoos, and other details which can help council staff and police track the offender," she said.
Tauranga SPCA animal welfare inspector Anna Porteous said there had been no increase in the number of complaints to the SPCA about dogs stolen or missing in recent weeks.
Illegal dog fighting rings were "covert, deeply underground, criminal activities" so it was highly unlikely anyone would allow themselves to be seen trying to steal a dog, she said.
Ms Porteous said some of these complaints, when investigated, appeared to be less suspicious than first reported.