When Geoff Westaway's dog and "mate" Bruce went missing he thought he might have been stolen by a dog fighting syndicate and may never be seen again.
It's pretty hard when you can't have a pet as a mate in a township like this.Bega resident Geoff Westaway
Two weeks later Essential Energy workers stumbled across the carcass of the two-year-old mixed Smithfield, red heeler, boxer, who would follow Mr Westaway everywhere and help him on regular deer hunting trips.
Mr Westaway said the animal had been dumped down an embankment and into a blackberry bush just metres from the family home, and had signs of bleeding from the nose and mouth as if he had been struck over the head.
"It definitely wasn't an accident. I'm assuming he never got hit by a car. It's foul play," the 66-year-old former council worker said from his South Bega home overlooking the hills of the Bega Valley.
"Somebody must know something about it.
"It's pretty hard when you can't have a pet as a mate in a township like this.
"He was very good-natured dog."
Bred by family members in Goulburn as a Christmas present after his previous dog was put down while suffering from cancer, Mr Westaway said the night Bruce went missing he remembers hearing all the dogs in the neighbourhood "going off as if something was happening".
"I went out and roused on him because he was barking, then he came up and went to bed and that was the last time we saw him," Mr Westaway's wife Rita said.
The next morning Bruce was nowhere to be seen, so Mr Westaway drove the streets of Bega in search of his mate before contacting council rangers and posting an alert on social media, which was shared widely across the region and Canberra.
The news of Bruce's death also hit social media hard.
"We thought he'd been pinched for a dog fighting syndicate," he said.
"The rangers told us most missing dogs around here are Staffies (Staffordshire bull terrier)."
Mr Westaway said he had reported the incident to NSW Police who said they will be investigating.
In NSW, the welfare of animals, including farm animals and pets, is protected under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979 and section 530 of the Crimes Act 1900.
Anyone found guilty of guilty of committing a serious animal cruelty offence can face a maximum penalty of up to three years in prison in NSW.