Which is worse? Living a tormenting paradox or facing unbridled and inhumane animal removal methods of population control, which have consistently proven uneffective?? Bottomline, it’s still sterilisation and responsible ownership, coupled with societal compassion on which we pin hopes of ending such madness.
By Yaisha Vargas
9:32 a.m. January 27, 2008
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – Activists in Puerto Rico who were outraged by the massacre of dozens of dogs hurled from a bridge last year say the government has been slow to deliver on promised measures to protect stray animals from abuse and abandonment.
In response to an outcry over allegations of inhumane killings, the government pledged in December to build shelters and create animal protection units inside the police. Authorities say they are making progress despite bureaucratic obstacles.
But advocates say that dogs are still being abandoned in large numbers, some of them starving or battered, on the streets and beaches of this U.S. Caribbean territory.
“It seems to me that the situation for the animals is continuing basically the same,” said Eugenio Crespo, president of the Animal Protection Federation and owner of shelters in Mayaguez and Ponce.
The animals found under a bridge in October had been seized from housing projects and thrown to their deaths. An investigation by The Associated Press later showed that such inhumane methods of killing pets and stray animals were routine, with thousands of animals brutally slain.
The island’s tourism department announced the campaign to improve the treatment of animals on Dec. 11. It has enlisted local artists for a media campaign to raise awareness about animal mistreatment and is preparing meetings with mayors to discuss strategies for handling strays.
“We have taken firm steps,” tourism director Terestella Gonzalez said.
But one key promise – new animal shelters in cities and towns across the island – depends on a $1.5 million fund that was created in 2000 upon the launch of a government animal control agency. None of the money has been made available to municipalities.
“I have heard of this money, but nobody has the money in their hands,” said Carol Janus, owner of A Cat’s Last Resort, a shelter in eastern Puerto Rico. “It’s all talk.”
The animal control agency’s director, Wilma Rivera, said the money cannot be released until guidelines for the shelters are set. She said the process has been delayed by the need to coordinate with other agencies and she expects a completed draft by late February.
Police training on how to pursue complaints of animal mistreatment is expected to begin next week. Two officers from each of the island’s 13 police divisions will receive the special instruction and share it with their colleagues, according to police spokesman Stephen Alvarez.
More than 50,000 people worldwide have signed an online petition calling for justice for those responsible for hurling pets off the bridge in Barceloneta.
The owner of the animal control company and two employees have been charged with animal cruelty, but they have denied involvement. A judge has been hearing evidence to decide whether the case should go to trial.
The case focused new attention on treatment of animals in Puerto Rico, which has no pet registration law and little spaying or neutering.
Article on the outcry originating dog-hurling crime:
Andres Leighton / AP
updated 7:25 p.m. ET Oct. 12, 2007SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – Animal control workers seized dozens of dogs and cats from housing projects in the town of Barceloneta and hurled them from a bridge to their deaths, authorities and witnesses said Friday.
Mayor Sol Luis Fontanez blamed a contractor hired to take the animals to a shelter.
“This is an irresponsible, inhumane and shameful act,” he told The Associated Press.
Fontanez said the city hired Animal Control Solution to clear three housing projects of pets after warning residents about a no-pet policy. He said the city paid $60 for every animal recovered and $100 more for each trip to a shelter in the San Juan suburb of Carolina.
Raids were conducted on Monday and Wednesday, and residents told TV reporters they saw the animal control workers inject the animals. When they asked what they were giving them, they said they were told it was a sedative for the drive to the shelter.
“They came as if it were a drug raid,” said Alma Febus, an animal welfare activist. “They took away dogs, cats and whatever animal they could find. Some pets were taken away in front of children.”
But instead of being taken to a shelter, the pets and strays were thrown 50 feet from a bridge in the neighboring town of Vega Baja, according to Fontanez, witnesses and activists, apparently before dawn Tuesday.
“Many were already dead when they threw them, but others were alive,” said Jose Manuel Rivera, who lives next to the bridge. “Some of the animals managed to climb to the highway even though they were all battered, but about 50 animals remained there, dead.”
Rivera said he alerted officials, who spread lime over the animals’ corpses to control the stench.
Firm’s owner remains skeptical
Animal Control Solution owner Julio Diaz said he went to the bridge when he heard of the allegations but remains unconvinced that the dead animals are the same ones his company collected.
“We have never thrown animals off any place. We always take them to our local shelter and euthanize them,” he said. “They can’t prove that they are the same dogs that we picked up.”
Fontanez said he would cancel the city’s contract with Animal Control Solution and said city lawyers were considering a lawsuit.
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The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has a rule
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has a rule allowing locally owned and operated housing authorities to set pet rules, but it does not grant authority for a blanket ban or mass confiscation, said Brian Sullivan, an HUD spokesman in Washington.
Asked to comment on the reported pet massacre, Sullivan said: “This sickens me if true.”
Puerto Rico pet treatment criticized
Animal rights activists have long criticized the treatment of pets in Puerto Rico, where there is no pet registration law and little spaying or neutering. Animal shelters are overwhelmed and must kill many of the dogs they receive, according to Victor Collazo, president of the island’s Association of Medical Veterinarians.
One organization recruits volunteers to take dogs home with them on commercial flights, and sends between 1,500 and 2,000 dogs a year from Puerto Rico to American shelters.
At least 175 dogs have been rescued in the last couple of years from Yabucoa Beach, which activists nicknamed “Dead Dog Beach” because of the strays that roam the coast and are sometimes found dead of disease, starvation or gunshots. Similar rescue efforts have been undertaken in the Bahamas and elsewhere in the Caribbean.