Spanish police bust international pet trafficking ring, rescuing over 400 animals

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Spanish police said Wednesday they had rescued over 400 animals, mostly dogs and cats, as part of an operation that smashed an international pet trafficking ring with the arrest of 13 people.

The gang is suspected of illegally importing animals from eastern Europe in small, poorly ventilated vehicles over distances of more than 2,000 kilometres (1,200 miles), police said in a statement.

It said the unsanitary conditions caused some of the animals to develop infectious diseases. Some died from mistreatment.

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The authorities suspect the gang forged documents to misrepresent sick animals as being healthy when they were sold.

Police began their investigation at the end of 2020 after they received several complaints about the unsanitary conditions at a pet shop in the centre of Barcelona.

The police then rescued 33 sick dogs and found that the animals’ documents “had obvious anomalies”, which led them to take an interest in where the pets came from.

Police said they had recovered more than 400 animals and arrested 13 people as part of the operation carried out last month against the ring, which was active in Barcelona, Madrid, Andorra and eastern Europe.

Trafficking can pose risks to public health as illegally bred pets are often not vaccinated and can spread rabies, parasites and infectious diseases to humans and livestock.

Consumers attracted by low prices often buy companion animals online without being aware of the risks.

The suspects face charges of animal abuse, fraud, document forgery and money laundering.

A new animal welfare law which took effect in Spain in September bans the buying of pets in stores or online, but gives stores a grace period to find homes for their animals.

In the future, it will only be legal to purchase pets from registered breeders.

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