Animal control imposters tell Bay Area owners they found their lost pet, demand money

ByMichael Finney and Renee Koury KGO logo
Wednesday, May 17, 2023
Fake animal control tell owners they found their pet, demand money
Anyone whose pet was lost or stolen knows the heartbreak. Even worse is the false promise your pet has returned.

VALLEJO, Calif. (KGO) -- Anyone whose pet was lost or stolen knows the heartbreak. Even worse is the false promise your pet has returned. That's happening now in the Bay Area.

It's the latest cruel scam -- imposters claiming to be animal control officers are telling owners they've recovered a lost pet. Next comes a demand for money. Then, the heartbreak.

"His name is Squirt. He's been missing for about two years," said Vallejo resident Scott Teason. "And (I) have him on multiple different lost dog sites."

Teason has been looking for his lost dog Squirt since 2021.

It happened when Squirt and several other dogs were inside a truck that was stolen two years ago. Four dogs were never found, including Squirt.

"I think about it every day, wondering if he's still alive, wondering if someone has him, and hurting him," said Teason. "It's heartbreaking. It bugs me every day."

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Teason posted alerts on "Paw Boost," a website listing lost animals with their photos and how to contact the owners.

"They send me emails saying there might be potential matches," said Teason.

But no luck. Then last week, Teason received a phone call out of the blue. The caller ID said "San Francisco Animal Care and Control."

"He started explaining to me that someone found a dog with a flyer with my number on it. He thinks it's possibly my dog," said Teason. "I mean, I got super excited. My heart started racing a little bit."

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The man on the phone said he could not send a photo of the dog because it was at the vet, but the description sounded promising.

"He said he's brown with a black nose with a white stripe on his nose. And that's Squirt," said Teason.

However, the man said Teason would have to make an appointment to get the dog back and pay $79 ahead of time using Cash-App or a gift card.

"And, you know, all that stuff that didn't make sense," said Teason.

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Teason called SFACC directly. The agency is now warning it was a scam. Imposters posing as animal control staff have been calling lost pet owners using a fake caller ID. They claim the pet was found and the owner needs to pay ahead to claim their dog. None of it is true.

Teason didn't get Squirt back -- but still hugs the dog's mother, Nubia.

"It's sickening that people are out there, trying to get money off of people, giving people hope they have their animal and they pay these people because they're so desperate. Then, they find out later they're not going to get their animal," said Teason.

Animal control says it would never ask for payment ahead of time to recover your pet -- and would certainly not demand you use gift cards or Cash-App. If someone says they're from animal control, hang up and call the agency directly.

You can also check the animal control website to see if your lost pet was recovered there. Visit https://www.sfanimalcare.org/lost-found-pets/.

Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.

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