The missing Australian cattle dog that had a R50 000 reward for his safe return has been found dead.
Marco’s disappearance was widely circulated on social media after it was believed he had been stolen by two men in a green BMW from his owner’s house in Judd Street, Colleen Glen, about three weeks ago.
Owner Anneli van Jaarsveld subsequently took to social media to canvass for Marco’s safe return and to raise funds for a reward.
Van Jaarsveld, who initially was too devastated to talk about the incident, said in an SMS: “Marco was found dead in Greenbushes, has been identified and brought home and is buried in his garden.
“I will let the Marco page donors decide where the money will go to. I will make it my life mission to bring in the makrochip [implant] GPS tracker for animals to South Africa to make sure that animals that are stolen or lost can be found.”
She said later that her dog was found with a wire around his neck, similar to a snare used by illegal hunters to trap small animals.
The reward money was raised via donations through the Facebook page “Bring Marco Home” and, as of last week, was sitting at R50 000.
Van Jaarsveld said last month the last time that Marco was seen was when a green BMW parked outside her house gate on February 24. She said her staff let the dog out and he never returned.
Since then, speculation has grown amid fears that Marco was abducted to be used for dog fighting – a theory that authorities confirm could be likely.
Posting the news of Marco’s death on Facebook on Saturday night, the Uitenhage SPCA said Marco’s body had been found.
“RIP sweet boy. Our thoughts and prayers go out to your grieving family.”
Messages poured in from dog-lovers, some from as far as Norway and Germany, in support of Van Jaarsveld.
SPCA chairwoman Deirdre Swift said yesterday that they posted the message but did not have details – or the circumstances – surrounding his death. “I can, however, confirm that dog fighting in the metro is becoming a huge problem. We are getting reports of dogs being stolen from all suburbs,” she said.
Animal Anti-Cruelty League inspector Bev Rademeyer said they too did not know how Marco died or who found him.
“It [dog fighting] is a big problem and extremely worrying that people would do this. We try and do what we can to stop it but honestly we need more people and buy-in from law enforcement.
“Usually people who steal dogs for fighting target dogs that have either escaped out of a yard and are wandering the streets, or they target a house where they can easily coax the dog outside.
“There is a misperception that they also only steal pitbulls. This is incorrect.
“The smaller dogs are often used as bait dogs to get the fighting dogs worked up and used to fighting,” she said.
Rademeyer estimated that about 10 dogs a month in the metro were stolen for dog fighting.
“Many dogs either run away or escape and simply disappear.
“I would estimate about 10 dogs a month are stolen for these dogs fights and this includes small dogs like a Maltese poodle to a larger dog,” she said.