Johannesburg - Five greyhounds thought to pose a massive rabies risk were put down by the state veterinarian in Ermelo after they were smuggled from Swaziland into South Africa, Beeld reported on Tuesday.

The full-grown animals had been concealed in the boot of their owner's car.

Police became suspicious when the BMW took around 20 minutes to drive a distance of 2km after going through the Mahamba border post, and stopped the vehicle on the South African side.

According to Jenna Geel, senior inspector of the Secunda SPCA, the dogs were all emaciated, neglected and infested with fleas.

“When the car was searched at the border post, it had no animals in it,” Geel said.

Shortly after the car entered South Africa, the driver presumably stopped next to the road to allow an accomplice to load the five animals into his boot.

Police were investigating the possibility that the dogs were en route to Klerksdorp, where they would have been used in illegal dog races.

The owner, Dumisa Mangwe, was arrested and charged with animal abuse and illegally importing animals. The dogs were put down on Monday, the paper reported.

Mangwe appeared in the eMkhhondo (Piet Retief) Magistrate's Court on Tuesday, and the case was postponed for further investigation. - Sapa