Suspected dog smuggler busted

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WINDHOEK – Excellent police work resulted in the apprehension of an alledged South African dog smuggler on his way to Angola last Thursday night and the confiscation of a trailer crammed with young thoroughbred dogs. Drug muling and document fraud are also suspected.

The suspect’s VW bakkie and trailer were stopped and searched by the police at the Rehoboth road block, which after the discovery immediately called the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) and took the vehicles and driver into custody. The law enforcement officers at the road block smelt a rat when they searched the trailer, which was crammed with Rottweillers, Alsatians and Boerbulls. According to the police the travelling papers of the animals were not in order, and other irregularities indicated that some of the dogs might even be stolen. There were also suspicions of ‘drug muling’ after it was noticed that several of the older dogs had fresh scars on parts of their bodies.

Commissioner Van Zyl (dept commissioner and  head of the Drug Law Enforcement Unit of Nampol) said he was immediately suspicious when he saw the travelling conditions of the dogs, together with the fact that it was a Cape Town registered vehicle on its way to Oshikango.

The small trailer was divided into four compartments, with six big dogs and four puppies loaded into such a confined space that they were hardly able to move. An SPCA inspector removed the animals.

The vehicles and ten dogs were taken to the SPCA, where the animals were immediately given a health check by the SPCA resident veterinarian Dr Simone Herzog, with some of the weary animals placed in isolation.

By Friday afternoon the suspect De Castro’s vehicle was still impounded at the SPCA and the police had also confiscated his passport.  A small but aggressive support group accompanied the suspect back to the animal shelter the next day, where both Sergeant Assegai and Sergeant Gariseb continued their investigation while the animals were kept under lock and key. New Era has established that there is big money involved in dog smuggling, with prices per dog reaching up to N$40 000 in Angola.

If the dogs are not stolen then the dog smugglers buy them from ‘puppy farms’ in South Africa with handsome profits to be made. The high demand for purebred dogs in Angola is based on a number of reasons. Pitbulls are used in fighting competitions and betting and these dogs fetch high prices. Dogs are also used for breeding and security purposes where they are in many cases kept on chains and in dismal conditions.

Meanwhile, New Era was also informed that an attempt was made to break into the SPCA on Saturday night, and it is believed that Angolan dog smugglers were on a mission to retrieve their dogs and possibly to flee the country. “We have received calls in the past to say that dogs passing through into Angola are being used as drug mules, which is what we want to check out,” said Commissioner Van Zyl. “I noticed fresh scars on some of the larger dogs, which means they might be filled with drugs, they were also very sick.

“Not only are these animals being abused, but if they are carrying drugs we have to alert our neighbouring countries of this operation, because if they can move unnoticed into Oshikango, they can easily be slipped through to the other side.

“All the dogs are being x-rayed and we will get the results of any drug findings,” he said, adding they have copies of the suspect’s passport and know where to find him.

“I have also placed police officers to guard the SPCA during the night while the investigation continues and the dogs are under lockdown.

“Dog smuggling is a nasty and cruel operation, and the Namibian authorities will not tolerate this illegal trade, because any animal being transported needs to travel with the correct papers and according to the procedures in place – if not, then it is against the law and these criminals will be dealt with accordingly.” Commissioner Van Zyl concluded.

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