Fake animal control men try to take dogs

"ON TO IT": Kaparira Winterburn with her Rhodesian ridgeback, Free Willee.
"ON TO IT": Kaparira Winterburn with her Rhodesian ridgeback, Free Willee.

Fake animal control officers have been trying to spirit away pets as bait for dog fighting, police say.

Two men posing as council officers are singling out the owners of Staffordshire bull terriers and Rhodesian ridgebacks in Otaki, on the Kapiti coast, claiming they need to take the dogs away for microchipping.

Karaparira Winterburn's suspicions were aroused when she did not recognise the men who said they were animal control officers admitting she knew staff from previous run-ins.

When they said they had come to pick up her 13-year-old Rhodesian ridgeback Free Willee, she said: "She doesn't need microchipping, she's nearly kicking the bucket. They had no clipboards, no ID so I told them get out."

The following day she learned that other Rhodesian ridgeback owners had also been approached.

The men returned to her house later that afternoon and again were told to leave, and this time they went across the road, stripping off yellow fluoro vests as they hightailed it through a back section, over a fence and headed towards the highway.

"When they buggered off like that I knew they take the cake for cunning. If they had taken Willee, she could have been killed."

Ms Winterburn was concerned that elderly or young people could be taken in and she advised dog owners to keep a close eye on their pets.

"They like ridgebacks because they are quick and come out fighting."

Sergeant Noel Bigwood said the impersonators chose the wrong woman: "She is very worldly, I think they under-estimated her. She is aware of what goes on and was on to it, but other people could be fooled."

Kapiti Coast District Council spokesman Tony Cronin said: "We believe they are trying to use them for dog fighting."

He said genuine officers carried ID and wore Day-Glo uniforms with council logos.

If dog owners were approached, they were urged to contact police or the council with a description of the culprits.

Wellington animal welfare inspector Ritchie Dalton said it was the first time he had heard of blatant propositioning for dog fighting in the region.

The Dominion Post