Hawks bust dognappers
Heavily armed and camouflaged Hawks members captured a gang of Johannesburg kidnappers and freed their hostages - nine sleepy six-week-old puppies - all without a shot being fired.
The clandestine operation early yesterday on the N12 outside Soweto was the culmination of weeks of undercover investigations into syndicates that abduct purebred dogs and smuggle them into Angola.
It is suspected that many of the pets are used for dog fights or as guard dogs.
The syndicates, which until now have operated in the Western Cape, target specific breeds: German shepherds, boerboels, bull mastiffs, rottweilers and huskies.
In yesterday's operation, the Hawks carefully laid a trap on the highway and arrested two Namibian nationals.
The dogs, which included boerboels and German shepherds, were found hidden in a specially sealed compartment at the back of a Mercedes-Benz Vito bus.
"All of them had been given heavy doses of anaesthetics and were fast asleep. Fortunately, none of them was dead," said a policeman.
The suspects were allegedly on their third trip to Angola with stolen dogs.
"They told us they were selling each puppy for R10000 to buyers in Angola," he said.
The suspects were charged with possession of stolen property and endangering animals.
Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals spokesman Isabel Wentzel said information on the six-week-old puppies was received from Interpol.
"The puppies were found hidden under the vehicle's front seat along with other contraband," she said.
The dogs were being kept in a place of safety until their owners were located. Wentzel urged owners to microchip their dogs to aid identification.