THESE tiny puppies were among 116 "crammed" into two vehicles in an attempt to smuggle them out of the country.
A man in his 40s was questioned by customs officers about the animals that were part of a shipment intercepted at Dublin Port.
The Herald can reveal the Co Cavan resident is also suspected of being involved in cigarette and alcohol smuggling.
He was not arrested at the scene of the operation at 8pm on Wednesday, but he was questioned about the puppies after two vans were stopped following a long-running investigation by the DSPCA and customs officers.
Also questioned were two middle-aged men with addresses in Co Carlow and Co Armagh.
Sources said that it is "probable" that some of the small animals would have died en route to the UK as they were "crammed into" the vehicles they were being smuggled in.
"This was an organised plot and it is believed that the puppies had been bred specifically so that they could be imported," a source said.
"The activities of all three individuals who were questioned will be closely monitored in the future especially at ports."
Gardai were also involved in Wednesday night's operation.
Gillian Bird, DSPCA spokeswoman, said the puppies were separated in the back of the vans into breeds, which included pugs, huskies, cockers, Yorkshire terriers and designer breeds such as labradoodles and cavachons.
"The DSPCA Veterinary team estimates that the puppies are aged from as young as five weeks up to eight weeks of age," she said.
"The breeds of the puppies include a variety of small breeds and were destined for the UK market." This is the first case, involving a large number of companion animals, to be seized under the new Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013.
Ms Bird said most of the puppies were in fairly good condition, apart from being young, but 32 needed veterinary care.
The DSPCA said the puppies were not available for adoption yet as the matter is still being investigated.
They did, however, appeal for donations of old newspapers to help keep the dogs in comfort.