Durban - A New Germany resident’s chance encounter with a boy he suspected of stealing his dog four months ago has led to the recovery of nine other dogs from two nearby townships, where they had been sold to various buyers.
Six of the stolen pets have been identified and were reunited with their relieved owners amid a flurry of excitement and emotions on Wednesday.
Shannon Munn was driving to take an examination on Monday when he spotted a teenager he suspected had stolen his American pit bull, Mustang, in February. He was walking with another boy and a dog.
“I recognised him from when he tried to push open my gate two days before Mustang was taken,” Munn said.
He said he had stopped and confronted the boys who insisted the dog was theirs – until two other motorists stopped and called the rightful owner.
The boys fled.
Police spokesman, Colonel Jay Naicker, said police caught up with the two boys, aged 15 and 16, in Lyndhurst. “It is alleged that the suspects led the police to different areas in Kwa-Dabeka and Clermont where they allegedly sold other dogs.”
A member of the New Germany Neighbourhood Watch, Gareth Stansell, said they had been monitoring the spate of dog thefts in the area for some time. “We handed over all the info we had compiled so as to assist SAPS as much as possible in the recovery of the missing pets,” he said.
Police enlisted the help of the Kloof and Highway SPCAs inspectorate department to accompany them to houses in Clermont and KwaDabeka where the dogs were suspected to have been sold, said SPCA spokeswoman Lisa Gadd.
She said the retrieval mission continued until the early hours of Tuesday morning, with nine dogs of various breeds being recovered. She said they were found in unacceptable living conditions, with six of them on short chains, and another in a small cage.
“One of the dogs was sadly reported to have been hit by a car and died. A 10th dog, belonging to a man who had bought one of the stolen dogs, was signed over immediately into the care of the Kloof and Highway SPCA and euthanised as it was in an appalling condition,” Gadd said.
The man faces charges of animal cruelty.
Munn’s 6-year-old dog, Mustang, had developed a severe case of biliary fever when he was returned in March for a R500 reward. He is receiving treatment and recovering well.
Knowing what it was like to have a pet stolen, Munn said he was glad for his role in the nabbing of the alleged dog snatchers and the return of six dogs to their owners.
One of the dogs was Ziggy, a 1-year-old Labrador and Boston terrier mix, which was stolen from his home last month. His owner, Ryno du Plessis, was out of town but his friend, Deven Phillips, was at his house when the SPCA came around to tell him about the recovery.
“While they were going around to other owners who had also listed a missing pet profile with the SPCA, I drove to Pinetown police station.”
Peering into the two vans full of bewildered and excited dogs, Phillips said he came across three that looked similar to Ziggy. “The first was a lot bigger than Ziggy and the other had too much white on his paws. The last dog was definitely him but I compared him with a picture on my phone just to make sure.”
He said Ziggy seemed scared and confused but did not resist when he was taken out of the van. “He was a well trained dog so when I called out his name and told him to sit and he sat, there was no doubt,” said a relieved Phillips.
While driving home with Ziggy, he phoned Du Plessis, who he said was ecstatic.
Ziggy had been taken while Du Plessis and Phillips were at work. “They (dog thieves) had disconnected the electronic gate and taken Ziggy, leaving the other dog..”
Gadd said: “It was very emotional to witness the reuniting of the dogs and their owners, some of whom had given up all hope of ever finding their pets. Of the four dogs that were claimed, most were unsterilised and only one had a microchip,” she said.
That dog was Laffie, a 3-year-old boerboel belonging to the Mtshali family. Mdu Mtshali said when they adopted Laffie a year ago, it was his “beauty and activeness” which had attracted them to it. “When we brought him home we got along very well and he became a member of our family.”
The family were distraught when he was taken in April.
Mtshali praised the New Germany Neighbourhood Watch which contacted him when the dogs were recovered. Although Laffie was one of two boerboels found, there was no mistaking him and his microchip was scanned to make sure.
As a parent Mtshali said it pained him that the alleged pet theft culprits were teenagers.
“Parents need to talk to their kids and be aware of what they are up to.
As a community we also should not turn a blind eye to mischief.” he said.
The happy dog owners, nei-ghbourhood watch and SPCA heaped praise on the Pinetown police for their tireless effort in locating the dogs.
The suspects, released into the custody of their parents, were due to appear in the Pinetown Magistrate’s Court.