Mumbai restaurateur sniffs out his dog's kidnapper

This Kandivli man single-handedly tracked down the dognapper and put him behind bars, before being reunited with his pet after four months

Vijay Shetty was reunited with his 6-month-old puppy on Wednesday. Pic/Nimesh Dave
Vijay Shetty was reunited with his 6-month-old puppy on Wednesday. Pic/Nimesh Dave

Nearly four months after his dog went missing, a Kandivli restaurateur has sniffed out the trail of the kidnapper who snatched his beloved pet and managed to put him behind bars. Despite his dogged determination, however, the police were unable to find his pet. Fortunately, the owner was finally reunited with his dog on Wednesday, after three strangers dropped off the canine at the Charkop police station.

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Kandivli west resident, Vijay Shetty, runs a Chinese restaurant out of the same building where he resides with his 6-month-old Great Dane puppy, at 90 ft road. "As there was painting and maintenance work going at home, I started taking the puppy to the restaurant. I would chain him outside the restaurant. Over time, he began to grab the attention of the passing public and became a selfie attraction for many of the local residents who posted pictures with him online," recalled Shetty.

On December 27, Shetty came out of the restaurant to find his puppy missing. "I went to the Charkop police station to registered a complaint, but the police showed no interest in searching for my pet. I decided to start my own search for my puppy and the thief," he said.

Dogged determination
He started by combing the CCTV footage, when he spotted a Maruti Omni van labelled 'SOS'. The tapes showed the van driver getting out, picking up the puppy and putting it in an auto rickshaw behind the van.

"I found out that the initials SOS stand for Save our Strays. I took the help of my animal lover friends who work for the welfare of stray animals, and started looking for the van driver," said Shetty.

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In the search for his dog, he visited more than 30 pet shelters before he finally found the culprit. "I passed on the information to the ACP and DCP and, on their instruction, the Charkop police registered the case under Sections 379 (theft) and 34 (common intention) of the IPC. They arrested the van driver, who was identified as Anil Dhawani."

During interrogation, Anil confessed to taking the puppy and told the cops that he had handed it over to a woman called Gargi Gudhar Gagoi, who was following his van in an auto. Dhawani was later released on bail, while Gargi too applied for anticipatory bail. At first her application was rejected by the Dindoshi sessions court, but the high court later granted her ABA. Even after all of this, however, the cops could not find the dog.

Thank dog, he's back
"I still held on to the hope that I would find my dog. In the meanwhile, a few middlemen came to me and offered to give me money or another dog if I withdrew my complaint. But I did not agree on any condition. It was my perseverance and police pressure that scared the accused and convinced them to return my dog. I got my dog back, I am very happy," said Shetty, who received the good news on Wednesday.

According to police sources, three strangers arrived at the Charkop police station in an Ola cab and dropped the puppy off, before trying to flee again. However, they were caught by the police and admitted that they were sent by the same NGO. The police took their statements down and let them go.

According to the cops, the NGO had already given the puppy to an industrialist in Chembur, but returned the animal when they realised that it may have been stolen. "A police team has been sent to the above address to enquire in this matter. Anyone who is found involved will not be discharged; strict action will be taken against them," said ACP Shrirang Nadgoda (Malwani division).

NGO says
"Save our Strays is a 13-year-old NGO working for the welfare of stray and abandoned animals in this city. Gargi Gogoi, an animal welfare volunteer working in the Charkop area, spotted a pedigree dog in distress, tied to a pole. She called our ambulance driver to assist her in getting help to the dog. The dog was in a pathetic condition and needed medical attention. The dog was picked up and handed over to Gargi, who took the dog for treatment," said Rinky Karmakar, a trustee of SOS.

"Our driver was arrested, beaten up and kept in jail for five days till we got him out on bail. Once the police contacted us, we complied with the law and have returned the dog after its ownership was established."

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