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Cape Town - A “shady” Gumtree advertisement has led to the safe recovery of a dog that was abducted from its home in Stellenbosch almost two weeks ago.
The three-year-old husky, named Luke, was reunited with his owner on Tuesday.
But animal welfare organisations are now on the hunt for a man suspected of stealing the dog.
They believe the abduction is linked to a sophisticated dog smuggling ring that has been operating in the country since the 1990s.
Leon Muller, an inspector with the Animal Welfare Society in Stellenbosch, said Luke was first reported missing from his home in Idas Valley on August 8.
Earlier this week, a Gumtree user circulated an advert claiming he had found the dog.
“We made contact with the man, but he demanded we pay R5 000 before he would hand him over. That’s when we knew something was off,” said Muller.
The inspector found out the dog was being kept at an address in Kayamandi in Stellenbosch.
When Animal Welfare Society inspectors and city law enforcement officers arrived, they found the dog chained up on a mattress in a shebeen.
“The shebeen’s owner told us someone had brought the dog here and left,” said Muller.
He was reunited with his owner, Lyle van der Merwe, on Tuesday.
“I’m really happy and relieved. I thought he was gone and I would never see him again,” he said
Van der Merwe had suspected the dog was stolen because strangers often approached him on the street and offered to buy Luke.
“I’m going to be very careful in future. I’ve already booked Luke in to be chipped.”
Allan Perrins, chief executive of the Cape of Good Hope SPCA, said he believed the thief was linked to the dog smuggling ring.
Last year the Cape Argus reported that thousands of pure-bred dogs were being stolen from South African homes and taken across the Angolan border to be thrown into fighting pits or breeding pens.
“Who knows what could have happened to this little guy if he hadn’t been found,” Perrins said.
“There is a huge demand for pure-bred dogs like him on the black market.”
Steps to clamp down on the transport of dogs out of South Africa had been successful.
But he warned that more opportunistic smugglers would turn to stealing dogs in a bid to extort money from their desperate owners.
Muller said that he had seen similar cases and warned dog owners to be wary of so-called “good Samaritans”.