More than 400 pets have been rescued from an illegal animal trade network in Spain.
Hundreds of animals, mostly dogs and cats, were recovered as part of an operation conducted by four police forces across Spain that first began in 2020.
In a video released by police in Catalonia, puppies of various “highly valued” breeds could be seen jumping around in crates as they were sent to undergo health inspections at the vets.
About 13 people have been arrested on suspicion of animal abuse, fraud, falsification of documents and money laundering, police said.
Some of the animals had died as a result of lack of care, and from having been transported by road in vehicles that had reduced space, poor ventilation and a lack of hygiene facilities.
In some cases, animals were travelling for more than 20 hours.
The illegal trade network connected Madrid, Barcelona, Andorra and Eastern European countries, where animals were sold to establishments, regardless of the health they were in.
Customers attracted by the low price of the animals would often buy them online without being aware of the risks.
A vet would also provide their signature, guaranteeing the animals were in good condition.
In many cases, the animals would become ill shortly after being sold.
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Police were able to close in and eventually shut down the trafficking ring after an inspection was carried out at an establishment in Barcelona, where 33 sick dogs were located.
The municipal police force in Barcelona was able to verify that animals were dying due to a lack of care, and the health cards and passports has been forged.
On 20 September, 12 searches led to the arrests and rescue of the animals.
In September, a new animal welfare law took effect in Spain, which bans the sale of pets in shops or online. It will only be legal to purchase pets from registered breeders, according to AFP.
In the UK, any business selling animals as pets need a licence and any animal being sold has to be in good health. These rules do not currently apply to anyone selling an animal, including any pet, privately.