Joint police operation against mistreatment of animalsThe operation was conducted in September and is one of the largest of its kind at a national level against the mistreatment of animals, labour fraud, scamming, falsification of documents and money laundering in this sphere. The illegal network connected Madrid, Barcelona, Andorra and countries in Eastern Europe, the origin of some of the animals.
The operation was the first to be carried out jointly between the four police corps (City Police, Mossos d’Esquadra, Civil Guard and National Police), with public and private bodies also involved. The process was directed and coordinated by the Barcelona Environmental Prosecution Service and Investigating Court 23 in Barcelona.
The investigation began at the end of 2020 after the shortcomings found in administrative inspections by Barcelona City Council’s Department of Animal Welfare and the City Police at a pet shop in the centre of Barcelona, where 33 sick dogs were found.
The City Police Investigation Unit found evidence of mistreatment of animals, through a lack of care which was generating deaths. They also suspected the falsification of documents, owing to anomalies in the health documents and travel passports for the animals.
Officers also found anomalies in transport, in commercial distribution and veterinary clinics and breeding centres controlled by this pet sales network. Evidence was found of animal mistreatment, misappropriation of tasks, falsification of documents and scamming.
A division of tasks and networking compatible with a much broader commercial structure was also detected, with more associated establishments appearing to operate the same way, as well as sales website.
A research team was created to enable the four police corps to work together, finding that illicit operations were being carried out at different establishments in Madrid, Catalonia and Andorra.
The organisation would acquire animals in different ways: through imports from Eastern Europe, breeding in illegal centres run by the same parties being investigated or illegal purchases on social media. Transport was normally by road, in small vehicles with insufficient ventilation, involving long distances without light and lacking proper hygiene conditions.
Police operation to dismantle the network
Twelve raids were carried out on 20 September, with 13 people arrested and over 400 animals confiscated, mainly puppies and kittens of breeds with a high commercial value on the current market.
Collaboration from different animal protection organisations was fundamental in the operation, including those contracted by the different municipal councils where police action was carried out. Police vets were involved in investigations at premises, screening animals for symptoms, classifying them and overseeing the isolation process where quarantine was needed.
Collaboration from pet shelters, in coordination with the respective municipal councils, was also a key aspect for care and veterinary assistance and quarantine, as was the technical collaboration of the Fauna and Flora Service at the Department of Climate Action, Food and Rural Agenda in the identification of the exotic animals found.
As part of the operation, embargos have been placed on properties in Spain and abroad and on banking products acquired by the heads of the organisation with money generated by the illegal traffic of animals.