Six tiny cocker spaniel puppies were rescued by police after their owner was spotted at the side of a road apparently trying to hurl them away in a plastic bag.
The man had been spotted by officers standing on a grassy verge at the side of the A689 near Bishop Auckland in the early hours of Saturday, Durham Constabulary said.
The two officers, Officer Liam Vernon and Officer Luke Howie, were driving past at the time and decided to turn around to investigate.
As they did so, they spotted that the man was swinging a sealed carrier bag while standing on the edge of the bank, according to the force.
The officers put on their sirens and the man was seen quickly flinging the carrier bag onto the front seat of his car before pretending to inspect his tyre as they pulled up next to him.
The sound of squealing could be heard coming from the passenger’s side of the car as the officers walked up and they realised it was emanating from the same bag the man had just been swinging, according to police.
Inside the bag – which was firmly tied shut – were a litter of cocker spaniel puppies, who were only five days old. They were so young that their eyes had not opened yet, police said.
The driver was questioned at the roadside while officers monitored the puppies and arranged for the litter to be transported to a local vet for treatment.
The man, in his 50s, was then arrested on suspicion of animal cruelty, money laundering and trafficking in a controlled drug and taken into custody, Durham Constabulary said. He has since been released on bail.
All six puppies are now said to be making a full recovery at a local vet’s surgery and have been reunited with their mother and father, which were rescued by officers who searched the suspect’s address. They, too, are receiving treatment.
It is expected the puppies will soon be fostered and the vet’s surgery is understood to have been inundated with adoption offers from the public already.
Officer Vernon said: “The puppies were riddled with fleas and if we’d have passed just seconds before, we would have been none the wiser.
“Both myself and Luke are huge dog lovers, so it has been one of those jobs which has really stuck with us, we’ve hardly stopped thinking about it but are just glad to have saved them – it really was right place, right time.”