In a sweeping, multinational operation, law enforcement agencies in Spain recently rescued over four hundred animals, primarily cats and dogs, from the clutches of an illegal trafficking network. The nefarious gang was engaged in the illicit importation of animals from Eastern Europe, using Andorra as a conduit before selling off the animals for profit in Spain.
Moreover, the traffickers were allegedly fabricating documents, declaring the animals fit for sale even though their health was compromised. Thirteen individuals have been apprehended and are facing charges ranging from animal cruelty and fraud to money laundering in connection with the trafficking.
The traumatized animals, frequently subjected to deplorable living conditions, are now under the dedicated care of veterinarians. This well-coordinated police salvage operation was initiated in September, three years subsequent to Barcelona law enforcement receiving grievances about appalling conditions in a city pet shop, where an alarming 33 ill dogs were discovered.
On Wednesday, officials reiterated that a number of recovered animals were unlawfully procured via online transactions. Some were purebreds, an element that significantly boosts their market value. The remainder were bred in illicit establishments run by the suspects, where female animals were forced into mass reproduction, with complete negligence of their health.
The trafficking method also included grueling road transport of the animals packed inside muggy, unsanitary vehicles. Covering daunting distances exceeding 2,000km (approximately 1,242 miles). Under such traumatic conditions, the beleaguered animals would often contract infectious diseases, leading to a rapid outbreak within the population of animals being illegally sold.
As evidence of the depth of the criminal network, one veterinarian is reported to have abused her professional status to paint a picture of guaranteed animal health in the operations. This individual allegedly advised other members of the network on subterfuge to evade detection during official inspections.
Spain recently tightened legislation related to animal sale and ownership including stringent penalties for offenders, such as incarceration or fines of up to 200,000 euros. Even the sale of animals in pet shops has been outlawed, signalling a serious shift in the nation’s commitment to animal welfare.