Message circulating virally via social media posts and email warns that a white transit van with the registration ‘RH57 WSU’ has been seen trying to steal dogs in various locations in the UK and elsewhere.
There is no credible evidence to support the claims that a white van with that registration is being used to steal dogs anywhere in the UK or elsewhere. Police in several jurisdictions have had no reports of such incidents occurring. Police have also stated that the registration included in the warning does not exist. The warnings are without substance and should not be reposted.
White transit RH57 WSU seen trying to steal dogs in Sussex & Salisbury. If seen please call police. PLEASE RT .
RH57 WSU…. van registration of people stealing dogs in the Bristol area, if seen ring police asap, pass this message along and hopefully catch these people
BEWARE!! THere are Dog Thieves Operating in the area. Please make sure your dog is safe & secure! LOOK OUT for a Ford Transit Van RH57 WSU
For several months, messages warning dog owners about rampant dog stealing gangs have been circulating virally via Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and other social media sites as well as email.
The warning discussed here claims that criminals are using a white Transit van with the registration ‘RH57 WSU’ to conduct their dog stealing activities. There are multiple variants of the message set in different parts of the UK, including Bristol, Somerset, Sussex, Manchester, Wiltshire, and various locations in Scotland, just to name a few.
There have even been some variants of the message – that often feature the same van and registration – set in locations outside the UK.
However, the warning is nothing more than a baseless rumour. There is no credible evidence whatsoever to support the claims in this warning. In fact, authorities in several locations in the UK have dismissed the claims.
The Greater Manchester Police has issued the following statement denying any knowledge of such dog stealing activities and noting that the registration ‘RH57 WSU’ does not exist:
Greater Manchester Police has this month been inundated by calls and emails relating to the theft of dogs within the force area.
The reports refer to unknown men in a white transit van registration RH57 WFU or similar.
We would like to reassure members of the public that we have had no crimes reported of this nature so far this month.
What we are finding is that in some circumstances dogs have gone missing from their home address and then later found in the same area, however, due to Facebook rumours people are assuming they have been stolen before enquiries in the local area have been completed.
The transit van mentioned is not registered on any police systems meaning the registration is none existent. There has been no intelligence received in relation to this van or any other van taking dogs, furthermore, contrary to rumours, there has been no intelligence to suggest the offenders are marking up peoples fences with coloured paint to signal whether a dog is desirable or not.
The rumour relating to the theft of dogs by these men in the white van was started on the internet several months ago and has since travelled the world using the same registration and descriptions. The reports we are receiving are from Facebook users who have seen this and are making us aware. We are yet to receive a report from anyone that can confirm this offence has taken place.
Greater Manchester Police would like to remind dog owners that certain measures can be taken to ensure your dog is not stolen, such as chipping and keeping them in a secure area.
If you do discover your dog missing then please inform the local dog warden as they often pick up dogs from the street which have been reported as stray. If you have any concerns regarding the above then please contact your local neighbourhood office or call us on 101.
Avon and Somerset Constabulary has issued the following statement:
Rumours of raids on Bishopsworth swimming pool last night are not true and we’ve not found any dead dogs.
There’s not been a rise in dog thefts across the force area and rumours on Facebook are causing unnecessary worry to dog owners.
We have no reason to believe dog baiting and fighting is occurring but we will investigate any reports made to us.
And a report on the This is Somerset website concurs, noting:
Messages circulating on Facebook about a white van being driven around by someone looking for dogs to steal are thought to be a hoax.
Avon and Somerset police says there have been no official reports of dogs being stolen in the area, with charity DogLost reiterating that message.
Over the past week the Somerset Guardian has received a number of calls from concerned pet owners desperate to find out what was happening after the rumours began to circulate.
Sgt Geoff Cannon, from Radstock Police Station, confirmed that officers had also received a number of calls from owners concerned about dog snatching but as yet have not had any reports of dogs actually being taken.
In fact, there are no credible UK police or news reports that support the claims in the warning message.
Some alternative versions of the warning tack on the claim that criminals are marking dog-owning households with coloured stickers so that they can return later and steal the animals. These “sticker gang” warnings also circulate as stand-alone messages. Police and animal welfare agencies in both the UK and Australia have identified the “coloured sticker” warning as a hoax.
Of course, there is no denying that illegal dog fighting still occurs and that pets may sometimes be stolen for use in such activities. However, this fact does not give any credibility to these false warnings. Spreading such misinformation does nothing other than spread unnecessary fear and alarm in communities and waste the time of police and animal welfare agencies who must respond to endless queries about such hoaxes from concerned members of the public.
And, despite the claims of some commentators, sending on these bogus warnings will NOT effectively raise awareness about dogfighting. Such warnings just muddy the water with rumour, hearsay and outright lies and are completely counterproductive. Sending on such nonsense will help neither dog nor man.