THREE men were arrested in South Africa for the alleged smuggling of 45 dogs on Wednesday, just as they were about to cross into Namibia through the Ariamsvlei border post.
Their plan was allegedly to transport the animals through Namibia into Angola where they would have been sold for various purposes, but especially to participate in dog fights.
Following this, the SPCA in Namibia issued an alert warning Namibian pet owners to be aware of the smuggling and the possibility of their dogs being targeted.
"The long-known illegal dog trade in South Africa appears to have spilled over to Namibia. Since 2012 the theft of dogs (mainly pure breeds) has increased in Windhoek," the alert, issued yesterday, read.
Dozens of dogs have gone missing in Windhoek over the past year, especially in Academia, Pionierspark, Cimbebasia and Kleine Kuppe.
The preferred breeds are Staffordshire terriers, Yorkshire terriers, Jack Russel terriers, Rhodesian ridgebacks, boerboels, pitbulls, German shepherds, Swiss shepherds, Rottweillers, huskies and bullterriers.
It is alleged that the stolen dogs are used as fighting dogs or 'bait dogs'. Bait dogs, mostly smaller breeds and puppies, are used for the training of fighting dogs.
Sources close to the SPCA and law-enforcement agencies, which apparently include Interpol, told The Namibian that more than 60 smuggled dogs were found at the Ariamsvlei border post in the past two weeks at the same border post.
The Namibian was reliably informed that, in a group of 22 dogs seized on the South African side of the border last week, four were diagnosed with the deadly Parvo virus and there is reason to suspect that infected dogs have already been taken over the border into Angola.
"This disease is highly contagious and deadly. We are waiting for the written veterinarian report on those dogs," the source said.
André Snyman from Johannesburg, founder of the 'eblockwatch' network which boasts about 85 000 members, said that the three suspects arrested on Wednesday are set to appear in the Upington magistrate's court today.
"With our network, we have managed to bring to the attention of law agencies to illegal dealings of every nature, and in this case, the illegal smuggling of dogs. The suspects have been under surveillance for some time, hence their arrest. It is quite a hectic situation but it is not the first. There's quite a big syndicate involved," he said.
Rumours about an illegal dog-fighting ring in Windhoek are also making the rounds. According to a local source, little information is available because the participants are "very clever" seeing that dog fighting is illegal.
"These people don't toy around. There's big money involved here and if one gets in the way one can get hurt," the source said.
Information has also surfaced that an international dog-fighting competition will be held somewhere in southern Africa at the end of this month. Because of this competition, it is feared that dog thefts will increase over the next few weeks.
"We cannot reveal too much information at this stage. The seat of these smugglers is getting very hot and we will do all in our power to stop them. But too much information now would jeopardise any progress," the source said.
There were at least two incidents in Windhoek last year where the SPCA and police managed to stop the smuggling of trailers full of dogs destined for Angola, which received widespread media attention.
The chairperson of the SPCA in Windhoek, Debbie Gibson, advises that dog owners microchip their pets for easier identification if they get lost or stolen. Owners should also keep photos of their pets for identification purposes.
"Also make sure your gates and fences and walls don't have any area someone can pull the dog through or over," she said.
Suspicious people or vehicles frequently passing houses should be reported to the police.
If a dog is stolen, the owner must inform the police as well as report the SPCA and on post it on Facebook.
"When offering a reward, do not mention the reward amount as this can cause prank calls and you might end up without your money and your dog," Gibson warned.
The emergency number for stolen pets is 085 631 6291.
"At the moment there is a group of concerned people looking into the matter and if the illegal trade turns out to be larger than imagined, then a task force will have to be established," the SPCA alert concluded.