By John Ensor •
Updated: 19 Oct 2023 • 14:47
400 animals rescued.
THE first collaboration of four of Spain’s police forces has yielded remarkable results which have led to hundreds of animals being rescued.
A report published by Spain’s Ministry of the Interior has shared details of a recent crackdown on the illegal pet trade.
On September 20, a combined effort from the National Police, Guardia Civil, Mossos d’Esquadra, and the Barcelona Urban Police resulted in the arrest of 13 individuals. This joint action, unparalleled in its scope, targeted an extensive illegal trade network linking Madrid, Barcelona, Andorra, and Eastern European countries.
The operation aimed to dismantle an operation notorious for animal mistreatment, labour infringement, fraud, forged documents, and money laundering. This trade network was rooted in Eastern Europe, funnelling animals to Spain. Assets amassed from these illegal activities were hidden by go-betweens in Spain, Andorra, and Dubai.
The collaboration of the relevant town councils, the Veterinary Colleges of Catalonia and Madrid, the Animal Protection Area of the Community of Madrid, the Barcelona Animal Protection Office, as well as different associations in Madrid and Catalonia, has been essential for the reception, custody, quarantine and maintenance of rescued animals, the report stated.
The investigation’s origins trace back to late 2020. After complaints about the health of animals sold in central Barcelona, 33 sick dogs were discovered. This discovery unearthed a broader network involved in severe animal mistreatment, falsifying documents, and fraud.
Researchers found a vast commercial structure with distinct roles. Multiple related businesses which used similar methods also sold animals online. The Guardia Civil had already intervened in related animal transports, and the National Police were investigating the same network in Barcelona. It was from this moment that a joint investigation team of the four police forces was created, for the first time.
The animals, sourced from Eastern Europe, breeding centres, or illegal online sales, faced horrendous transport conditions. Journeys sometimes exceeded 2,000 kilometres, lacking proper ventilation, light, and sanitation. These conditions often led to the rapid spread of infectious diseases.
The animals’ pitiable state was exacerbated by the dire conditions of the selling establishments. Consequently, disease spread rates were alarmingly high. Because of this, the mortality rates in these establishments were very high. Regardless of their health, all animals were up for sale.
A vet, part of the criminal organisation, offered her expertise to lend legitimacy to the operation. Clinics under the network’s control regularly contravened regulations. They hid the true origin of the diseases and ailments developed when the puppies were already in the hands of the buyers.
In the breeding centres, parent animals, especially females, were exploited for maximum offspring, disregarding their well-being.
The concluding operation on September 20 saw 12 searches, 13 arrests, and the rescue of over 400 animals, mainly puppies and kittens of highly valued breeds. Essential collaboration came from various associations, animal protection entities, veterinary services, and even international bodies like INTERPOL.
In summary, this operation highlighted the unprecedented teamwork between police forces and various entities, spearheading one of the most significant operations to date.
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Originally from Doncaster, Yorkshire, John now lives in Galicia, Northern Spain with his wife Nina.
He is passionate about news, music, cycling and animals.
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