Blogging About Critters Since 2007

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Killings Begin a National Dialogue in Puerto Rico

The tragic killings of the dogs thrown over a bridge last year shed light on Puerto Rico's poor treatment of animals.

I'm glad to see the media is still writing about it. This detailed article is from the New York Times.

News of the event became an international embarrassment for Puerto Rico and something of a vindication for animal rights advocates here and on the United States mainland who had long tried to draw attention to the plight of animals on the island.

Animal rights advocates contend that the inhumane disposal of animals was routine, with unwanted dogs, cats and even farm animals hurled from bridges, intentionally crushed by vehicles or butchered with machetes. Government nonchalance, they say, has allowed this to go on.

Now, international attention is having some impact. Not only is it spurring some government action, but it has unified animal welfare groups and brought the issue to the attention of Puerto Rico's citizens.

“In our culture we have not addressed these issues because, probably, we did not think they were important,” said Carlos M. Carazo, director of the animal disease division of Puerto Rico’s State Office for Animal Control, in an interview in San Juan last month. “In Puerto Rico, we have so many issues to address, we haven’t had the leisure time to think about animals. But this is probably the time to start thinking about it.”

Puerto Rico, among United States territories, has long had a poor international reputation for the treatment of animals. There is no government program for mass sterilization or registration of pets and little animal welfare education in the schools. The island has only about a half-dozen animal shelters, and while municipalities are charged with rounding up strays, that duty has largely been ignored, government officials and animal advocates say.

The key is to keep the pressure on the government and to work together. Groups get too easily fragmented over turf. This is too important for the animals (and let's not forget tourism dollars!)

Photo by amaliasoto.

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