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A man believed to have killed hundreds of animals by draining them of their blood to sell to vets across Europe has been arrested by Spanish police.
After a tip-off from a worker at a refuse incineration plant where the Spanish businessman dumped the animals’ bodies, agents from the Guardia Civil’s wildlife unit tracked down an address for the suspect, where they found more than 250 emaciated animals in pens.
Most of the animals were greyhounds, and many showed signs of mange or other illnesses.
Video of the police raid on the southern outskirts of Madrid shows how one greyhound was unable to get up, lying unattended and seemingly on the verge of death.
Animal rescue shelters have taken in the surviving animals, with several described as being in a “critical” state.
Investigators have said that the unnamed suspect, who has been released on bail, had been running what he called the Veterinary Transfusion Centre since 2006, making more than a million euros from sales of blood and killing as many as 500 animals, mostly dogs and cats in the process.
His clients included veterinary centres in Spain, Portugal, Italy, Belgium and France.
‘Well known in veterinary circles’
The case has raised questions over how the man, who had no veterinary qualifications, could have escaped detection for so long.
“He was well known in veterinary circles. The bags of blood seemed to have all the right guarantees and vets worked with the company without knowing how he obtained the blood,” said Cristina Fragio, head of the veterinary hospital at Madrid’s Complutense University, admitting to having been a customer.
Investigators said that in April and May this year, the suspect took 60 animals for incineration: 29 cats, 27 dogs, three rabbits and a ferret.
Analysis showed the animals had died from a sudden loss of blood and investigators believe he extracted blood directly from the heart.
“If that is true, it’s disgraceful. Usual practice is to use the jugular vein or vessels in the legs and remove small quantities every two or three months,” Dr Fragio told the newspaper El País.
The suspect faces charges of perpetrating animal cruelty on a massive scale and fraud.