Vet Accused Of Using Puppies To Smuggle Heroin Into The US

By Kelly Burch 05/03/18

The puppies were surgically implanted with liquid heroin for a drug-smuggling ring.

Three golden retriever puppies

A veterinarian who allegedly used puppies to smuggle cocaine into the United States appeared in court this week, more than a decade after his actions were first reported.  

Andres Lopez Elorez, 38, originally of Venezuela, pleaded not guilty to federal charges of conspiring to import and distribute narcotics, according to the New York Times.

Elorez was arrested in Spain in 2015, and has been fighting extradition to the United States since. Still, federal authorities were determined to have him stand charges. 

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

Elorez, who does not have any specialized training as a veterinarian but did work for a decade as a small-town vet in Spain, allegedly implanted packets of liquid heroin inside puppies that were meant to be transported to the United States.

Each puppy was implanted with about a pound of liquid heroin. Officials in Colombia discovered 10 of the puppies in 2005 on a farm in Medellín, Colombia. It’s not clear whether the puppy-smuggling scheme had successfully been used to get drugs into the U.S. previously. 

Most of the puppies did not fare well. Five ran away, and three died from infections from the incisions used to insert the drugs into their bodies.

However, one Basset Hound was adopted by the family of an officer who discovered the litter. A Rottweiler puppy named Heroina defied the odds entirely: she was adopted by the Colombian National Police and trained as a drug-detection dog.

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

However, Elorez’s court-appointed lawyer, Mitchell Dinnerstein, said that his client has changed since the days when he was risking the lives of puppies in order to deliver drugs. 

“He got his life together in the last 10 to 12 years,” Dinnerstein said. Elorez had escaped to Spain after the raids, got married and had two children. 

Dinnerstein said that Elorez is suffering from physical and mental health issues following his extradition to the United States. 

“I think a lot of this is, frankly, stress related,” Dinnerstein said. 

Please read our comment policy. - The Fix
Kelly Burch Contrib.jpg

Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.