16 November 2016

Zimbabwe: 'Puppies From Polokwane' Fuel Zimbabwe's Illegal Pet Trade - Vets

An animal welfare group in Zimbabwe is warning of a growing trade in unvaccinated puppies sneaked across the South African border to meet Zimbabweans' insatiable demand for pure-bred dogs.

They say the trade - backed by forged veterinary certificates and photos of "parent dogs" lifted off the web - poses a wider danger to animal health in Zimbabwe since the strains of deadly parvovirus being brought in are new.

There are even fears of rabies being brought in this way (though rabies is of course already present in Zimbabwe).

The puppies are being bought "at the side of the road" in places like Polokwane, Mel Hood from Veterinarians for Animal Welfare Zimbabwe confirmed in an interview.

"These guys pay a couple of hundred rand, smuggle them through the border and then sell them here for phenomenal amounts of money. The vaccinations aren't up to date, there's no veterinary clearance, nothing. It's just a big money-making scam," she said.

'These guys are making a fortune'

The trade is fed by Zimbabwe's lack of registered breeders, though that doesn't stop a lot of illegal backyard breeding. "Security dogs" are a big draw in Zimbabwe: Alsatians and the like (which can sell for up to 400 US each).

But Zimbabweans are drawn to other breeds as well: Labradors, Siberian huskies and toy poms.

It's these dogs - or dogs supposed to be these dogs - that are being trafficked across the border.

They are then advertised on social media sites in Zimbabwe. Harare and Marondera are top puppy purchase towns, apparently. Sometimes the dogs are sold with forged certificates bearing the names of well-known vets.

"It's big bucks. These guys are making a fortune," Hood said.

What makes the trade all the more heartbreaking (apart from the arduous journeys the puppies are making) is the fact that Zimbabwe is already home to so many unwanted dogs. The Harare SPCA is struggling to stay afloat, as is the Friend Animal Foundation, both of which cater for unwanted animals.

"When we're putting down the number of dogs we are every day in Zimbabwe because we can't find homes and these people are bringing in all these dogs - it's just wrong," Hood said.

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