A two-year investigation into a Colombian heroin ring netted more than 65 pounds of drugs, resulted in the arrests of more than 20 people and saved the lives of some drug-smuggling Labrador retrievers, the Drug Enforcement Agency said Wednesday.
Ten wayward pups were found during a raid on a Colombian farm in 2005, and six of them were carrying more than 3 kilograms (6.6 pounds) of liquid heroin in their stomachs, said DEA spokesman Rusty Payne.
Puppy smugglers are another take on the human "mule," or "swallower" in DEA parlance -- someone who ingests packets of drugs and transports them in their stomachs.
The puppies, however, had little say in the matter.
In the case of the puppies found during the 2005 raid, the dogs' bellies had been cut open, and heroin packets were stitched into their stomachs, Payne said. The pups, mostly purebred Labrador retrievers, were sewn back up and prepared for shipment to the United States, he added.
"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," said Special Agent in Charge John Gilbride in a written statement.
Though the 10 dogs
were rescued before being shipped, it wasn't enough to save all of their lives.
"Three of the six died of infection when the drugs were removed," Payne said, adding that four other puppies "were going to be used and obviously were saved."
Payne said the DEA did not announce its find after the raid because the investigation was still ongoing, but Wednesday, the two-year probe yielded 18 search warrants in six Colombian cities and landed the latest of 21 arrests, all Colombian nationals. Another arrest was made during the investigation in North Carolina
, said DEA spokeswoman Erin Mulvey.
In addition to the arrests, the investigation led to 14 heroin seizures, totaling 24 kilograms (52.8 pounds), and a seizure of 6 kilograms (13.2 pounds) of cocaine.
The investigation began after agents learned of a cartel in Medellin, Colombia
, that was smuggling drugs along the eastern seaboard from Miami
, to New York
The cartel also used human couriers, the DEA said in a statement, and shipped the heroin in "body creams, aerosol cans, pressed into bead shapes, and sewn into the lining of purses and double-sided luggage."