New Plymouth District Council is warning pet owners about a man purporting to be an animal control officer who is targeting purebred dogs.
The warning comes after a man wearing a uniform took a purebred dog from a woman's property, before throwing it from a slow moving vehicle witnesses said was similar to those council officers use.
The council's manager of customer and regulatory services, Mary-Anne Priest, said the dog was unharmed and the thief probably got rid of it after it was found to have been neutered and of little value.
She had been told the man was in a vehicle with 'animal control' written on it.
Ms Priest said people should ask to see the credentials of anyone purporting to be an animal control officer and wanting to take their dogs.
"There were two independent witnesses that believed the vehicle was an animal control vehicle, which obviously was very concerning for us.
"These dogs are very valuable and they are breeding from them and they are onselling them, so this is where the danger is."
Fake animal control officers are reported to have been operating in Waikato and Waitomo as well.