Kanta-Häme District Court has found a woman guilty of crimes involving the illegal breeding of wolf-dog hybrids.
She was handed a suspended prison sentence. In addition, the court banned the woman from keeping animals for six years.
She was found guilty of aggravated animal welfare endangerment, four nature conservation offences, two counts of illegal animal importation and one count of threatening an informant. The court dismissed one further charge for a nature conservation offence.
The woman illegally imported wolves and hybrid wolfdogs to Finland from Russia. She kept the animals at a property in the municipality of Loppi, about 90km north of Helsinki, where they were bred and sold.
According to the prosecutor, the woman mistreated the animals, beating them with her fists, chains, sticks and brooms.
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The court refused the prosecution's demand to also sentence the woman to 120 days community service, saying the suspended prison sentence was harsh enough.
In addition to the main suspect, three other people were found guilty. One defendant was sentenced to four months in prison for nature conservation offences and illegal importation of animals. The other two defendants received fines.
Defendant claimed to have been set up
The crimes were committed between June 2016 and January 2019 in the southern municipalities of Loppi, Orimattila and Karkkila, as well as Vaalimaa, a border crossing point to Russia.
The police investigation began in 2019 after authorities received information about a wolf being kept at a property in Karkkila. The case was investigated by a Helsinki-based police team which specialises in animal welfare-related crimes.
Police quickly became aware that several wolves had been smuggled from Russia to the main suspect's farm in Loppi.
All four defendants denied the charges against them. The main suspect claimed in court that the animals on her property had been put there in an attempt to frame her.
The defence claimed that the animals involved were not wolves or illegal first-generation wolf-dog hybrids. The defence also argued that the animals were not being farmed for profit.
The district court's judgment, however, is not final as the ruling can still be appealed.