Algarve animal activists are celebrating what they thought was impossible. The recovery of yet another purebreed dog stolen by an insidious nationwide network of thieves making money from the worst kind of puppy farming.
“Eddie” (his name has been changed for issues of safety) was wrestled back from his captors at midnight on February 27.
He had been missing for eight days. He was “hungry and thirsty and very tired. He was chained and still wearing the collar he had on when he disappeared”.
For all kinds of reasons, the Resident cannot name the people who tracked Eddie down and ‘stole him back’ as they were helped from the inside of the criminal network, and are certain there would be repercussions on their contacts.
But the bottom line is that good-looking Algarve animals – as much as any others throughout the country – are being taken whenever they can be ‘easily found’ and used to breed.
Their captors then sell the puppies, keeping the stolen parents as “breeding machines” which often have “many litters, are tied down, kept in small cages or on chains, are badly fed and suffer terribly”.
The microchip system, tragically, is failing many cases. Some dog owners chip their animals thinking the information goes straight onto a database, which doesn’t always happen. Most vets do insert details themselves, but others leave it to parish council ‘juntas’ to do so once the owners have officially registered their dogs – which, of course, many do not do, usually through ignorance, say our contacts.
And as a veterinary clinic in Lagos, added, there are two microchip databases in Portugal to confuse the issue: one (SIRA) onto which they insert automatically after chipping a dog, and one (SICAFE) run by the State to which they don’t have access.
As one of the heroines in this story involving hours of sleuthing told us: “Our bottom-line message to all animal owners, particularly owners of pure breeds, is ‘do not let your animals roam’.
Eddie had been “moved around” to make it harder for him to be traced, and quite a bit of money had to change hands before he was finally handed over to his distraught owners who travelled with rescuers and risked their own safety to recover him.
“It was a very dangerous and expensive rescue”, said the leader of the group that is now searching for other lost dogs. “The owners are not wealthy and it was a huge sacrifice for them to have to pay to get their baby back, but sadly there was no other way. He would have disappeared forever otherwise”.
The group added that “until police who know this is happening start raiding these people’s properties and rounding up dogs that are in them, we won’t see many results like Eddie’s”.
The Resident approached the GNR’s environmental arm SEPNA, in charge of animal work, last week. We were told to put our queries in writing (which we did) and six days on we have still not received any reply, even though we were assured at the outset that we would.