Veterinarian Accused of Using Puppies to Smuggle Heroin Goes to Court

    A veterinarian has been accused of allegedly smuggling heroin into the United States appeared in court this week, after more than a decade since he was accused.

    The veterinarian, Andres Lopez Elorez from Venezuela pleaded not guilty to federal charges of conspiring to import and distribute narcotics into the United States.

    Arrested in Spain in 2015, Elorez has been fighting extradition to the United States. The federal authorities were determined to have him stand charges for allegedly implanting packets of liquid heroin inside puppies that were meant to be transported to the United States.

    James J. Hunt, the special agent in charge of the DEA’s New York Field Division said “Twelve years ago, our investigation unmasked drug trafficker’s inhumane callousness. Over time, drug organizations’ unquenchable thirst for profit leads them to do unthinkable crimes like using innocent puppies for drug concealment.”

    The man did not have any formal training as a veterinarian, but worked as one in Spain for ten years where he began implanting the drugs.

    Each dog was implanted with a pound of liquid heroin, Colombian officials found in 2005. They discovered 10 dogs on a farm in Medellin. It is still not clear whether the puppies that were struggled had successfully used to get the drugs inside the United States previously.

    Mostly the dogs did not fare well on their journey. Three died from infections from the incisions used to insert the drugs into their bodies, and five ran away.

    One Basset Hound was adopted by the family of an officer who discovered the puppies. A Rottweiler puppy named Heroina was adopted by the Colombian National Police and trained as a drug-detection dog.

    A former head of the New York office of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) called the scheme “one of the most outrageous methods of smuggling” that he had ever seen.

    Mitchell Dinnerstein, Elorez’s lawyer, said that his client has changed since he risked the lives of puppies in order to deliver drugs, saying he has gotten his life together in the last decade. He said that Elorez is suffering physically and mentally following his extradition to the United States.