Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Britannica Blog - Circus Animals: Abused and Dangerous

Elephants in Chains - Courtesy of PETA

The Britannica Blog has an interesting and depressing post on Circus Animals: Abused and Dangerous. If people would stop patronizing circuses with animals, this would come to an end. After all, these circuses are in it for the money.
Circus Bans
More than a dozen municipalities in the United States have banned performances that feature wild animals. Costa Rica, Sweden, Singapore, Finland, India, and Austria ban or restrict wild animal performances nationwide. Districts in Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, and Greece ban some or all animal acts. PETA has been campaigning in the United States for specific bans on the most abusive circus practices, including chaining elephants and using training tools that cause pain and suffering, such as bullhooks and electric prods.
You can also visit this PETA site on Circuses.

Sign Here to Stop Circus Cruelty

Monday, November 5, 2007

Is the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico Government Dragging Its Feet in the Barceloneta Pet Massacre Investigation?

ASPCA has offered to the Commonwealth Department of Justice, free of costs, the services of a distinguished Forensic Veterinarian, Dr. Melinda Merck (photo at right), who worked in the Michael Vick case. She had offered to come to San Juan this past weekend. All that was needed was the go-ahead from the Secretary of Justice. This is all to assist in the criminal investigation of the Barceloneta Massacre. As indicated in this ASPCA blog post here, this is some of what she has to say about the need for forensic veterinarians:
What tools do you use to do your job?

Because of TV shows like CSI and Law and Order, real-life jurors expect forensic science to back up all the evidence presented to them—and animal cruelty cases are no exception. These days, jurors don’t just want any old evidence—they want forensic evidence.

“It’s because of ‘the CSI effect,’” says ASPCA Forensic Veterinarian, Dr. Melinda Merck, who literally wrote the book on using science in investigating animal cruelty. Merck, who often testifies as a forensic veterinary expert for animal cruelty cases around the country—including animal hoarding, dog fighting and animal torture—has also recently authored the textbook Veterinary Forensics: Animal Cruelty Investigations.
Unfortunately, her visit to Puerto Rico this past weekend did not materialize. The reason given for not having her come down this past weekend (see article here) was that Commonwealth prosecutors indicated it would take too long to obtain permits from the Commonwealth's Environmental Quality Board and the Department of Natural Resources so that the distinguished doctor could unearth the massacred pets. This is a very poor excuse! In fact, one can only conclude that it is foot-dragging by the Commonwealth Government, as the buried animals quickly decompose.

I would hate to think that this has something to do with the fact that Barceloneta Mayor Sol Luis Fontanez belongs to the same political party as the Governor. In the meantime, the Police Superintendent reports as to how evidence has been lost here. If evidence has been lost or destroyed, much blame falls in the hands of the Police Superintendent. What steps were taken to preserve evidence? None! It is true that Animal Control Solutions President Julio Díaz Cintrón has his hands dirtied with destruction of evidence, but much of that could have been prevented by the authorities if they had acted with a minimum degree of competence. As the Puerto Rico Tourism Company puts up its arms in disgust with the adverse press publicity this pet massacre has received world-wide, one would think that the Government would do all in its power to make sure that wrongdoers do not go unpunished. Such does not seem to be the way things are working out.

Barceloneta Massacre, Animal Control Solutions & Julio Díaz Cintrón

At left, Julio Díaz Cintrón, president of Animal Control Solutions (ACS), who offered several hard to believe hypotheticals as to why animals found dead under a bridge were not those that he and his employees had picked up from Barceloneta public housing projects. (Photo Primera Hora / Andre Kang).

Among the hypotheticals lamely advanced by Mr. Díaz Cintrón, are the possibility that the animals found under the bridge were thrown there as a result of having died in dog fights, because he alleges that near to that site there are persons who engage in dog fighting. No evidence of this other than his say so. Another hypothesis advanced by him is that the animals were somehow killed in nearby municipalities by neighbors, since there are some municipalities that have no animal control programs, and it would not be surprising for neighbors to take this into their own hands. Again, no evidence of this.

Now, let us analyze these lame hypotheticals, in light of the known facts, and Mr. Díaz Cintron's actions. Some of the known facts:
  1. Some 50 pets were removed (in the first round) from their owners (residents of 3 public housing projects in Barceloneta, PR) by order of the municipality, under threat of having the residents otherwise evicted from their homes.
  2. Some 50 pets were found --mostly dead-- under a bridge shortly afterwards, having been thrown there from a height of some 50 feet.
  3. At least one pet -- Yoli -- survived and was identified by her owner. See photo of Yoli with Leisha Swayne here.
  4. When all of these animals were discovered --mostly dead-- Mr. Díaz-Cintrón paid for mechanical equipment (an excavator) to bury the animals, but he says he did this out of goodwill rather than any sense of guilt. He did this rather quickly. But he could not bury Yoli!!
  5. He thereafter alleged that the animals he had picked up, had been euthanized at a veterinary clinic in Caguas, PR, and then transported and were being kept in specialized refrigerators at Animal Control Solutions' facilities. This would obviously be the clearest exculpatory evidence in his control, one would reasonably think. But Mr. Díaz Cintrón said he had to take the animals to be cremated (without first giving notice to authorities, even though he knew there was an ongoing criminal investigation), because the special refrigerators were shut off at night and the animals were decomposing rapidly and creating a terrible smell at Animal Control Solutions' facilities. This was obviously a reasonable explanation, just as we all turn off our home refrigerators at night, or just as the morgues shut off their refrigerators at night!
Thus, Julio Díaz Cintrón is solely responsible for burying the approximately 50 pets under the bridge, and for disposing of what he said were those he picked up by allowing them to decompose in his "daytime only" refrigerators, and then having those cremated. Yet, when the animals were initially discovered under the bridge, Julio Díaz Cintrón commented that "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." See this Associated Press story here. Why would he have any doubts if he knew they were in his "daytime only" refrigerators? And, of course, Julio has no explanation for Yoli.

Julio Díaz Cintrón needs to get a new life, one that does not involve storytelling.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Barceloneta Pet Massacre - the Muncipal Ordinance that Says it All

The Municipality of Barceloneta, Puerto Rico has what can probably be considered a one of a kind Ordinance, that forbids all animals in all urbanizations, public housing, or anywhere else within the town's limits. The Ordinance declares that "animals represent a grave aesthetics and health problem to the city of Barceloneta." You can find a copy (in Spanish) of the incredible Ordinance here. It does not distinguish between types of animals, strays or pets, but simply forbids them all. It is no wonder that Mayor Sol Luis Fontanes-Olivo set in motion the taking of all pets from public housing residents in Barceloneta.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Colegio de Abogados de Puerto Rico before the Senate's Comisión de lo Jurídico, Asuntos Municipales y Financieros

Attorney Yolanda Alvarez Cruz, President of the Puerto Rico Bar Association's Special Commission on Animal Rights, accompanied by attorney Tom Lincoln, testifies before the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico Senate's Judiciary Committee (actually named Comisión de lo Jurídico, Asuntos Municipales y Financieros) on Senate Bill 2098 proposed by Senator Jorge de Castro Font on amending Puerto Rico's Animal Protection Law (see Law 67 in English here, and in Spanish here), to add a compulsory anger management program for violations to the law, to increase penalties for violations of Law 67, and to allow for the temporary or permanent removal of animals who have been or are suspected of being abused. While the general tenor of the proposed bill is a positive one, it was the Bar Association's view that anger management courses (which would result in the participant/abuser having his fine cancelled), fails to take account of the fact that many types of animal abuse do not involve any anger on the part of the abuser, and this mechanism is not adequate in addressing this sort of abuse -i.e., neglect of the needs of an animal. Moreover, the bill does not specify what would happen to the animal removed either permanently or provisionally. And finally, the bill seems to target only pet owners or guardians, rather than any person who abuses an animal. As such, the Puerto Rico Bar Association could not and did not give its support to the proposed bill. It is hoped that another bill will be presented soon that will replace Law 67 and a few other animal protection laws in its entirety, augment the penalties, and be truly a revolutionary bill that will meet the expectations of a society that truly cares for the well being of all its animals.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

We Have Done So Little to Solve the Problem of Stray and Homeless Animals

I just took a look at this article in the New York Times -Puerto Rico Tackles Issue Of Stray Dogs' Suffering - published on January 6, 1998, close to 10 years ago, and the situation has only worsened.

This was part of the description back then.

The plight of Puerto Rico's stray dogs, many of them mixed breeds known as satos, is now the subject of a campaign by animal rights groups in Puerto Rico and on the United States mainland who say the problem, while common to many countries, is unacceptable in an American territory.

The groups say there is a dire need for more animal shelters, for mass sterilizations and for an educational campaign to promote responsibility among dog owners who think nothing of dumping their pets on beaches or along roadsides when the animals are regarded as too expensive or inconvenient.

''There are few places where you see the overt suffering that you see in Puerto Rico,'' said Joyce R. Briggs, a spokeswoman with the American Humane Association in Colorado, which distributed a grim video last summer on Puerto Rico's satos to raise awareness and money for animal protection efforts.

The problem resulted, at least in part, from years of neglect and the low priority given to the strays by government officials, animal rights groups say.

Officials of the Puerto Rican government have said they consider the strays to be the responsibility of the island's 78 municipalities.

Puerto Rico has no animal control officers or dog registry. Moreover, animal cruelty laws are not enforced, animal rights advocates say, and no government agency is directly responsible for the strays. But the main problem, the advocates said, is the attitude of many Puerto Ricans.

And that is pretty much the way it still is now, only probably worse. The 1998 article goes on to state that:

Many animal rights groups advocate a broad, government-subsidized sterilization campaign, and veterinarians favor an equal emphasis on changing the public perception of strays through school programs and public service announcements and passing legislation to require owners to register their pets and make vaccines for rabies mandatory.

''The problem is not the dogs, it's the owners,'' said Dr. Carlos Mongil, [then] president of the Puerto Rican Veterinary Medical Association, which this year plans to participate in a private, subsidized spaying and neutering program. ''We can sterilize all the dogs, but if people don't change their perception, we'd still have stray dogs. The same owner who dumps won't sterilize.''

Suffice it to say that I have yet to hear of the broad, government-subsidized sterilization campaign, or the school programs or the public service announcements. Nor is there any legislation requiring guardians to register their pets. And as for the Puertorrican Veterinary Medical Association, it is still pushing legislation for microchips and mandatory sterilizations.

Time for Mandatory Pet Sterilization

The Humane Society has an excellent article on Why You Should Spay or Neuter Your Pet. Among the reasons stated are the following:

Spaying or Neutering Is Good for Your Pet

  • Spaying and neutering helps dogs and cats live longer, healthier lives.
  • Spaying and neutering can eliminate or reduce the incidence of a number of health problems that can be very difficult or expensive to treat.
  • Spaying eliminates the possibility of uterine or ovarian cancer and greatly reduces the incidence of breast cancer, particularly when your pet is spayed before her first estrous cycle.
  • Neutering eliminates testicular cancer and decreases the incidence of prostate disease.

Spaying or Neutering Is Good for You

  • Spaying and neutering makes pets better, more affectionate companions.
  • Neutering cats makes them less likely to spray and mark territory.
  • Spaying a dog or cat eliminates her heat cycle. Estrus lasts an average of six to 12 days, often twice a year, in dogs and an average of six to seven days, three or more times a year, in cats. Females in heat can cry incessantly, show nervous behavior, and attract unwanted male animals.
  • Unsterilized animals often exhibit more behavior and temperament problems than do those who have been spayed or neutered.
  • Spaying and neutering can make pets less likely to bite.
  • Neutering makes pets less likely to roam the neighborhood, run away, or get into fights.

Spaying and Neutering Are Good for the Community

  • Communities spend millions of dollars to control unwanted animals.
  • Irresponsible breeding contributes to the problem of dog bites and attacks.
  • Animal shelters are overburdened with surplus animals.
  • Stray pets and homeless animals get into trash containers, defecate in public areas or on private lawns, and frighten or anger people who have no understanding of their misery or needs.
  • Some stray animals also scare away or kill birds and wildlife.
I think it is time for the government and pet owners in Puerto Rico to step up to the plate and move towards mandatory pet sterilizations, with low cost sterilizations for pet owners who qualify. The pet overpopulation in Puerto Rico is something unreal, and the number of strays and homeless animals is simply mind-boggling.

As indicated here at The Humane Society website regarding the problem with pet overpopulation:
As a nation, we claim to love cats and dogs. Millions of households have pets, and billions of dollars are spent yearly on pet supplies and food. But as a nation, we should take a hard, sobering look at a different annual statistic: the millions of dogs and cats given up to shelters or left to die on the streets. And the numbers tell only half the story.

Every cat or dog who dies as a result of pet overpopulation—whether humanely in a shelter or by injury, disease, or neglect—is an animal who, more often than not, would have made a wonderful companion, if given the chance. Tremendous as the problem of pet overpopulation is, it can be solved if each of us takes just one small step, starting with not allowing our animals to breed. Here's information about this crisis and why spaying and neutering is the first step to a solution.

How many more dead or suffering animals do we need to see before we decide to get more serious about this problem?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Maldonado v. Municipality of Barceloneta - or the "Barceloneta Massacre"

In photo, Leisha Swayne, Cruelty Investigations Consultant for the RED de Protectores de Animales (The Animal Protectors Network), and Yoli, one of only two survivors of the Barceloneta Pet Massacre. We have posted a link under "Animal Rights Cases" in the sidebar to the Complaint filed last week in the U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico in the so-called "Barceloneta Massacre" case, or Maldonado v. Municipality of Barceloneta, et al.., No. 07-1992 (JAG), claiming in excess of $20 million. This is the case in which the pets taken from their owners under threat of eviction from their public housing, were thereafter thrown to their deaths from a bridge some 50 feet high. You have to read the Complaint. See video at ABC News. Also see posts at Manos por Patas blog here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Animal Protection Laws of the United States & Canada - Third Edition by Stephan K. Otto, ALDF Director of Legal Affairs

You can visit Animal Legal Defense Fund and download here a complimentary copy of Animal Protection Laws of the United States of America & Canada — Third Edition by Stephan K. Otto, Director of Legislative Affairs. It now also covers U.S. territories such as Puerto Rico.
It is the must-have resource for lawyers, law professors, law students, legislators, other legal professionals, and anyone who wants the most comprehensive animal protection laws collection of its kind available.

At almost 2,900 pages in length, the third edition of the compendium contains a detailed survey of the general animal protection and related statutes for all of the states, principal districts and territories of the United States of America, and for all of Canada; up-to-date versions of each jurisdiction’s laws; easy, clickable navigation; and fully searchable content.

You must provide the required information and then you will download an installer which will take you through the rest of the process.


While dedicated to Animal Rights in Puerto Rico, we will be posting and adding information related to animal rights elsewhere. My views are just that: mine, and I do not purport to speak for anyone else. While I have always been interested in Animal Rights, recent events in Puerto Rico (I will refer to this as the Barceloneta Massacre and/or the Barceloneta case) have prompted me to become more of an open advocate for animal rights. These events have also brought a lot of attention to the issue of animal rights in Puerto Rico, and perhaps will prompt our legislative, executive and judicial branches of government to take stronger actions for the protection of animals. As a result of these events, I came to learn that the Puerto Rico Bar Association had a Special Commission on the Rights of Animals, which I have since offered to join.