A kidnapped German Shepherd was returned to its elderly owners in Bogota Friday, three days after a police sting operation thwarted payment of a US$350,000 ransom.

The dog, named Aldo, had been left by his abductors at a veterinarian's office earlier this week and was identified on Friday, after the story of his kidnapping was published on the front page of the country's largest newspaper, El Tiempo.

Capt. Wilfredo Vasquez, spokesman for the police's elite "Gaula" anti-kidnapping unit, said the dog's owners refused to discuss the case, but described them as a wealthy, retired couple.

"They lived alone and loved the dog like it was a child," said Vasquez.

The four-year old purebred was taken hostage on Sept. 18, when abductors broke into the couple's house, subdued the dog with a tranquilizer, and lugged it away in a bag, Vasquez said.

Hours later, the captors called the couple to tell them that Aldo would be mutilated unless they forked over US$350,000. They also received photos of the pampered pup bound in chains, along with a tape recording of the warning, "This is how your dog cries at night."

When the couple went to pay part of the ransom at a rendezvous point, six undercover agents — trained to rescue people in Colombia, one of the world's kidnapping capitals — were lying in wait.

When the exchange took place a shootout erupted, wounding one of the agents and leading to the capture of two of the dog's abductors.

Aldo was dropped off at the vet's office later the same day, showing signs of starvation, Vasquez said.