The Drug Enforcement Administration arrested 22 Colombian nationals for smuggling heroin into the United States via various methods, including surgically implanting the drug into puppies, officials said Wednesday.
The Colombian organization brought more than 20 kilograms of heroin into the United States, concealing some of it by slitting open purebred puppies, according to John P. Gilbride, the DEA’s New York Field Division special agent-in-charge, in a news release.
At least three puppies died from having liquid heroin packets placed inside them and then being stitched back up, DEA spokesman David Ausiello said.
Human couriers, or “swallowers,” also ingested the heroin packets to transport them overseas. The group also hid drugs in body creams, aerosol cans and along the lining of purses and luggage.
Drug smugglers often rely on couriers to swallow condoms full of drugs and one Colombian woman was once found with cocaine surgically implanted in her buttocks, Reuters reported.
“The organization’s outrageous and heinous smuggling method of implanting heroin inside puppies is a true indication of the extent that drug dealers go to make their profit,” Gilbride said. “This investigation identified the individuals who were responsible for overseeing and smuggling millions of dollars worth of heroin from Colombia to the East Coast.”
More than $20 million worth of heroin is involved, NBC News reported.
In January 2005, police in Colombia had found six puppies with scars on their abdomens at a rural property. Ultrasound scans revealed bags of liquid heroin hidden inside the living animals. Police said traffickers planned to retrieve the drug once the dogs had passed customs abroad.
Colombia is the world’s largest producer of cocaine and the main supplier of heroin to the United States.
NBC News and Reuters contributed to this report.