16 Mar 2017 11:39 AM EST
Men posing as animal control officers are stealing dogs in southern Illinois, authorities say, leading officials to warn dog owners not to leave their pets unattended. Perry County Sheriff Steve Bareis says two men seen driving a white pick-up truck with "Animal Control" written on the side are suspected of nabbing five dogs in Perry, Randolph, and Washington Counties, per WGN and KMOV. Police believe they were also involved in two dog-snatching attempts, but were scared away by dog owners.
The men appear to be targeting purebreds, which can be worth thousands of dollars. "They're basically patrolling during the day for them, and they seem to be coming back at night" or when owners are away, Bareis says, noting some dogs have been taken from fenced yards. Authorities say the dogs stolen so far have likely been sold, meaning there's little hope of recovering them. "It's scary, but I always tell people you cannot leave your dog unattended," an employee at a local humane society tells WCMH.