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Dog smugglers caught red-handed

24 August 2012

ANIMAL rights activists allege that they have caught a dog-theft syndicate red-handed smuggling 48 pedigree dogs stolen from South Africa across the Namibian border to Santa Clara in Angola for sale there.
The discovery of alleged large-scale dog smuggling at the border comes amidst allegations of dereliction of duty, or collusion by the Namibian Police for failing to stop the trafficking.

There is growing outrage about the continuing theft of dogs in Namibia and South Africa for export to Angola because of fears that people there intend to use the animals in dogfights – a popular sport in Namibia’s northern neighbour.
The activists in South Africa became suspicious when people transported the dogs across the Namibian-Angolan late at night on Tuesday last week when the Oshikango border post is supposed to have closed for the night.
What heightened their suspicions however was the fact that the dogs apparently received vaccinations only eight days before people took them across the border.
Normally the dogs are supposed to be taken across the border 30 days after vaccination.
The people transporting the dogs took the first group of 38 dogs to Santa Clara late on Tuesday night in a Jeep Cherokee pulling a trailer, according to sources.
The activists say another group of people transported the other 10 dogs on Sunday across the same border in a Ford Bantam bakkie.
According to a witness, whose identity the newspaper cannot disclose for safety reasons, “the main culprit in the whole syndicate is a man called Rasta”.
The witness said Rasta confirmed to them that he intends to sell the dogs in Angola for approximately N$5,000 or more for use in dogfights.
“When our people [animal activists and members of Interpol South Africa] tried to get the dogs back from Rasta, he stood there with the police commissioner laughing at us.”
She did not specify which, or who the commissioner was.
In an email communication with some of the activists at the border, they said that they had received a great deal of support from the SPCA in Tsumeb who are on standby to give the animals shelter and the SPCA in Walvis Bay has also offered a helping hand.
“We contacted the SPCA in Windhoek immediately when this whole thing started but they did nothing. They never bothered responding to our request.
“What we would like to know from the Namibian police is how they could allow the trafficking of stolen dogs to take place in the country and under these conditions.”
According to them, the people did not put the dogs in any cages or boxes when they transported them using Namibia as a transit route and tied them to bakkies to prevent them from escaping.
Regional Commissioner of the Namibian Police in the Ohangwena region Abner Agas said he had only heard claims made that the dogs are at the border and that they are from South Africa.
He however, explained that police and customs officers positively identified the animals and confirmed that the people were transporting them legally.
“That was all I heard yesterday [Wednesday] that there were claims made that stolen dogs were imported into the country,” Agas said.
Meanwhile the animal welfare activists say they need urgent help.
“If Interpol Luanda gives our people the documents that they can take the dogs, they need the police to follow them because local residents threaten them,” an activist said.
The exporters sell special breeds of dogs, mostly Rottweiler, German Shepherds and bulldogs to Angolan nationals who use them for breeding, dog fighting or one other type of sport while others use them as guard dogs.
On Thursday afternoon, the group of animal activists (all women) who had been trying to reason with the customs officials at the border to have the dogs back were locked up in a room where they were held until late afternoon.
“Our hands are literally cut off and there is nothing we can do it seems. This is becoming an international disgrace for Namibia for allowing those pigs to get away with things like this!
“These dogs travelled thousands of kilometres without any food or water and the youngest dog is around three or four months.
“These dogs all belong to owners who care and love them like their own kids and now they must be treated like this. The fact that they jumped up and cried when one of our activists talked to them and left again showed that they are used to a good caring environment.”
According to a report on News24, “the men who had smuggled the dogs apparently had import and export permits as well as vaccination certificates from the state veterinarian in South Africa”, which according to our source, makes it difficult for animal activists to obtain any rights over the dogs.
“It is a mess and we don’t know what to do anymore,” one of the activists added.
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The Windhoek Observer is an English-language weekly newspaper, published in Namibia by Paragon Investment Holding. It is the country's oldest and largest circulating weekly.

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