East Germany authorities have refused to allow an 11-year-old dog to be reunited with its owners, who went to West Germany to visit relatives and refused to return, a newspaper says.

The mass-circulation Bild tabloid reported Wednesday that East German officials had turned down a request to allow Elsa, a Boxer, to rejoin Gerd and Brigitte Bornschein.The two stayed in Duesseldorf rather than return to their home in Jena, where they had left the dog in the care of a relative, Bild said.

The newspaper said Elsa has refused to eat because it misses the family.

"The East German officials want to punish me, so they are punishing the animal," Mrs. Bornschein was quoted by Bild as saying.