for National Geographic News
To conceal their liquid heroin, South American drug traffickers surgically inserted packets of the drug into the bellies of puppies and then planned to transport them into the United States, U.S. officials said this week.
But the criminals' plan was foiled.
The ten purebred dogs, most of them Labrador retrievers, were rescued about a year ago when U.S. law-enforcement officers raided a rural Colombia veterinary clinic.
U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) officials said six of the pups each had about a pound (half a kilo) of heroin inside it.
A veterinarian removed the pliable packets, but three of the puppies later died due to infections from the incisions.
"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 DEA Special Agent John Gilbride in a media statement.
The U.S. illegal drug market is one of the most profitable in the world, officials say, attracting the most ruthless, sophisticated, and aggressive traffickers.
The DEA didn't announce its find until now because it didn't want to compromise a long-term investigation into the smuggling organization based in Medellín, Colombia.
But on Wednesday the agency's two-year investigation ended with more than 20 Colombian nationals arrested for smuggling 53 pounds (24 kilograms) of heroin into the U.S.
Arrests in the case were made in Colombia and North Carolina.
The drugs involved in the wider investigation had an estimated street value of 16 million U.S. dollars, officials said. The traffickers' distribution network stretched along the U.S. East Coast from Miami to New York City.
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