I have an unhealthy obsession with community Facebook pages. I rarely post on them but I’m a member of what seems like a million of them: Canberra Buy Swap Sell, Queanbeyan Buy Swap Sell, Canberra Mums (I have no children unless you count cats), MyGungahlin (I don’t even live in Gungahlin), and the list goes on.
A month or two ago posts started appearing from people living in various parts of Canberra and Queanbeyan warning others about the possibility of dogs being stolen from front and back yards. Many residents were reporting finding small markings, sometimes chalk, spray paint or even a ribbon tied to a tree branch or letterbox, outside their home. The marking was usually on their driveway.
These people say they had discovered the markings after their beloved pet dog had gone missing, presumably stolen.
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One person says she found a cross spray painted on the back side of her back fence (obviously not visible from her house) after she came home one day and came across an unidentified man in her backyard who quickly fled the scene. The homeowner strongly believes this man was trying to steal her dog.
Many people reporting missing dogs or strange markings on their property strongly believe that this is all connected to an illegal dogfighting ring here in Canberra. It’s been suggested that this horrible activity is taking place in a warehouse in Fyshwick.
The thought of your beloved pet being used to fight to the death for profit is horrifying and completely terrifying; people are asking why the police aren’t doing anything about it.
The problem it seems is lack of evidence. ACT Policing put out a statement last week saying: “There is no substantiated evidence that this kind of dog theft is prevalent in the ACT”, and have asked people to report their missing animals to TAMS and to the RSPCA.
Their response angered quite a few people whose dogs have gone missing, with many pointing to the markings left on their properties as “evidence”. Some residents are calling for the police to take samples of the spray paint/chalk left behind to establish if they have all come from the same batch.
I have mixed feelings about this issue. On one hand I think about how angry, scared and upset I would be if I thought my dog had been stolen for such a malicious activity and I would expect the police to do something about it as soon as possible, especially since so many other people are coming forward about their own experiences. On the other hand, I know issues like this are incredibly hard for the police to manage, especially when there’s not a clear and consistent pattern in dogs going missing. From what I have seen, the majority of the dogs that have been reported missing are from Ngunnawal, Kambah and Karabar in Queanbeyan. All very different areas. Although this dogfighting ring has been alleged to be taking place in Fyshwick, I understand that it would be difficult for police to investigate because they don’t really have any particular person or even vehicle to be keeping an eye out for. They can’t go barging in to every building in Fyshwick to check things out either.
Plenty of people online are suggesting this is a hoax which, even if true, is not comforting to people with missing dogs and generally just enrages the debate to a higher level. I really feel for people who have lost their dogs in any circumstance; innocent or sinister. They have every right to be upset.
Until the police can/will do anything further, it’s probably best for dog owners to remain vigilant. Ensure the fencing around your home is secure, keep your dogs in the back yard (or inside, where possible) so it lessens the chance of them being seen from the street. Some people are even investing in having cameras installed around their house so they have vision of any suspicious activity. If you see anything, report it straight away to the police and the RSPCA.
If your dog goes missing you can report it to TAMS here
and to the RSPCA here