South Africa
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News24.com | PODCAST | The Story: Is dognapping on the rise?

Animal welfare organisations are alarmed by a case of alleged dognapping that happened in Cape Town last weekend. A woman's dog disappeared from sight while she was walking on the mountain, and several hours later she received a phone call demanding a ransom of R500 for the safe return of her dog. Despite the police accompanying her to the meeting place for the exchange, no arrests were made. 

On this week's episode of The Story, we speak to News24 journalist, Malibongwe Dayimani, who covered the case. We also speak to Animal Welfare Society of South Africa spokesperson Allan Perrins about whether dognapping is on the rise and how pet owners can keep their animals safe. 

READ | Canine caper: Cape Town woman pays R500 ransom after dog kidnapped on Table Mountain

Dayimani contacted police to find out why they did not arrest the four men who had contacted Lombard and demanded R500 in exchange for the dog. The police had accompanied her in an unmarked car, and despite one of the men approaching Lombard with a broken bottle before handing over the dog, they made no arrests.

Brigadier Novela Potelwa told Dayimani the incident had not been recorded in the occurrence book at the police station. Furthermore, they told Lombard they "did not believe a crime had taken place".

When News24 contacted Potelwa for additional comment she explained that the complainant had said she had been contacted by people who had "found her lost dog".

"It is important to note that at no stage did the complainant indicate that her dog was kidnapped and or the persons who had phoned her demanded a ransom. Instead she told the police she had offered the persons R500 as a reward for finding her dog. She further indicated she had come to the police station because the callers were no longer replying to her messages and she feared the worst".

Potelwa said she believed the money Lombard handed over was "reward money". However, she urged Lombard, to contact the Kirstenhof police station, if her version differs from this.

Potelwa said the first time police heard it was an alleged dognapping was when they received a media enquiry. 

Perrins said when he learned that police had witnessed the handover and not made any arrests, he was "shocked".

"In our opinion they lost a golden opportunity to arrest those responsible, and their failure to act can only be interpreted as gross incompetence and an indictment on SAPS." Perrins said.

He believes the incident was an isolated one, but has warned pet owners to be vigilant especially if walking alone, and to always walk their dogs on a leash. He also suggested a "novel approach" of changing the wording on the dog's tag to read "scan me" instead of having the pet owner's name and number on the tag.