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The Social Organization of Pet Trafficking in Cyberspace

European Journal on Criminal Policy and Research

Published online on


Recent research has highlighted how deeply pet trafficking has been affected by the use of the Internet, to the point that it can be conceived as a hybrid market that combines both traditional and new social and economic opportunity structures. However, more must be learned about the extent to which the social organization of pet trafficking has changed due to the Internet, since the dynamics of relationships within and between criminal networks, as well as between criminal networks and non-offenders, matter as a potential object of intervention to counter this criminal activity. By focusing on the online market in animals for the Italian pet industry, this contribution offers an examination of the criminal structures and modus operandi of actors involved, using a socio-organizational level of analysis. It is based on case studies analysis and observational research carried out on cyber-hotspots for pet trafficking. These sources were used to identify and chart criminal networks, techniques, and social practices surrounding online sales. They were complemented by seven in-depth interviews with Italian law-enforcement officers and acknowledged experts from NGOs. The results offer empirical evidence for interpreting the impact of the Internet on the social organization of pet trafficking, thus providing a more complete understanding of how criminal actors behave in cyberspace.