Durban - Forty-three dogs – many of them kidnapped – have been rescued in Durban before they could be shipped to Angola by an international smuggling syndicate.

The syndicate has been kidnapping and buying up animals across South Africa to traffic them out of the country for dog fighting.

A big fight is being planned and an order has gone out for 100 dogs a week, The Independent on Saturday has learned.

Three suspects have been arrested during the Durban bust and investigations are continuing.

The dogs are now safe, said the source who did not want to be named as she feared for her safety.

“More than 100 dogs have been confiscated in Durban, at Joburg’s OR Tambo Airport and at the border between South Africa and Namibia (the route to Angola) this week alone,” she said.

It is the latest development in a smuggling operation that has been going on for some 10 years and has involved 120 000 stolen dogs being trafficked from Cape Town alone.

The dogs are also believed to be used for breeding, security and mine clearing.

On Friday night she warned dog owners to take care of their pets.

Small dogs, like Yorkshire terriers, are used for bait and get ripped apart by the bigger dogs in the ring. Puppies are also used as bait by the dog-snatchers who can get big money for winning a fight.

One case involved a three-month-old rottweiler which was grabbed when it was lying between its parents.

The syndicate targets huskies, ridgebacks, boerboels and ridgebacks and German shepherds.

South African dogs are needed as they are strong and healthy.

“There are no animal rights in Angola,” we were told.

Last year, an alert Namibian woman, Maghitta Visser, spotted a bakkie, crammed with chained dogs, with a Cape Town licence plate near the remote Oshikango border post with Angola.

She was able to stop the smuggler’s bakkie and found 10 pedigreed dogs chained up inside.

They were covered in urine and faeces. Visser went to the police.

The driver was apprehended. Alleged syndicate members had managed to evade suspicion as they had convinced the authorities that they were the rightful owners.

The National Council of SPCAs said last year that its jurisdiction did not extend beyond South Africa.

“We are, however (through the assistance of Interpol) trying to ascertain the circumstances of the trade and to find a solution to this tragedy,” the organisation said.

Independent on Saturday