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Hybrid wolf breeding scheme behind illicit animal imports, Finnish police say

Purebred wolves have been imported illegally from Russia, police animal protection investigators say.

Orimattilasta löydetyt eläimet
Investigators found two wolves hidden in a sauna building in Orimattila. Image: Helsingin poliisi

A special team of Helsinki police investigators suspect eight individuals of illegally importing wolves to Finland in order to breed wolf-dog hybrids.

The preliminary investigation is nearly complete and the case, which currently involves a total of twelve criminal charges, is expected to go to court later this summer.

The charges include aggravated animal welfare endangerment, animal endangerment and eight counts of nature conservation crimes, as well as two counts of illegal animal importation. It is illegal to import wolves and wolf-dog hybrids into Finland.

Police said the crimes were carried out between June 2016 and January of this year in the municipalities of Loppi, Orimattila, Karkkila, which are in southern Finland, as well as Vaalimaa, a border crossing point to Russia.

A total of eight people are suspects in the case but police said the main suspect was raising hybrid wolf-dogs in Loppi, which is about 90 km north of Helsinki.

The case is being investigated by a Helsinki-based police team which specialises in animal protection related crimes, a group which was established last autumn.

Around the end of last year, officials became aware of an individual who had a wolf at home in Karikkila, which is roughly 70 km north-west of the capital.

Story continues after photo.

Karkkilasta löydetty eläin ja sen aiemmin lopetettu sisarus
Two animals found by investigators in Karkkila. Image: Helsingin poliisi

During the preliminary investigation, the team learned that four wolves had been brought into the country from Russia and transported to the main suspect's farm in Loppi.

A total of 64 animals, including hybrid wolf-dogs, were found on the main suspect's property in Loppi.

Police said one of the wolves were taken to Karkkila while two others were moved to a hiding place in Orimattila, due to an animal safety check that authorities carried out at the main suspect's farm.

However, police carried out searches of all three of the locations simultaneously, along with the help from veterinarians.

One animal found in Karkkila turned out to be a purebred Northern European wolf.

Police found two other wolves in Orimattila, inside an unlit sauna building in the yard. Officials said the sauna smelled of faeces and urine and that the animals did not have access to water or food.

Police said 30 animals were euthanised during the preliminary investigation.

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