NewsBriefs BUTTONS

Dog Who Carried Drugs in Belly May Work For Customs


January 1995

An Old English Sheepdog nicknamed "Coke" because she was shipped to New York's JFK Airport with five pounds of cocaine surgically implanted in her belly may soon work for the U.S. Customs Service (D.W. Miller, "Canine Carrier," U.S. News and World Report, Dec. 19, 1994, p. 22; "International Drug Smuggling: Agents Foil Boas, Bras, Dogs," Dec. 7, 1994, p. A7; Joseph P. Fried, "A Sheepdog Flies Into Kennedy With Drugs," The New York Times, Dec. 6, 1994, p. B1).

A Customs Agent spotted the dog when she arrived in a load of cargo from Colombia. The dog was underweight and looked sick. X-rays showed ten balloons filled with cocaine-packed condoms that had been surgically inserted into the dog's abdomen.

Dr. Steven Weinstein from Queens is the veterinarian who treated Coke. He said the packets had been in the dog's stomach two to four weeks before she arrived in the U.S. The balloons of cocaine had not been sterilized and had caused an infection in the dog. The dog had also not eaten in about two weeks.

John Erik Roa, 22, of Paterson, New Jersey was arrested at JFK when he arrived to claim the dog. He was charged with attempting to possess an illegal substance with intent to distribute.

Weinstein said that Coke would have died if the packets had not been removed when they were. "She was in poor condition," he said. "She was weak, depressed, emaciated -- skin and bone. She really made a miraculous recovery."

Coke is now the property of the U.S. Customs Service because she is evidence in Roa's trial. Agents say she may be adopted by the Service and trained as a drug detection dog.