This is a terrible story that really hasn't gotten much coverage...probably because it didn't involved any pro athletes or celebrities....but still, this just can't be tolerated.
By MICHAEL MELIA, Associated Press Writer Sat Oct 13, 3:37 PM ET
BARCELONETA, Puerto Rico - Elvia Tirado Polanco says she reluctantly handed over her black- and white-spotted mutt to animal control workers after they threatened that she would be evicted from her housing project for keeping a pet there.
The workers promised to take the small dog named "Lucero" — or "Star" — to a shelter. Days later, however, Tirado was horrified to learn that dozens of pets seized this week in Barceloneta on Puerto Rico's north coast were instead thrown to their deaths from a bridge.
"It was barbaric," said Tirado, 56, who wept Saturday as she described caring for the seven-year-old dog. "This has been a really hard blow for all of us."
Several pet owners inside the Antonio Davila Freytes housing project, one of three raided by animal control workers Monday and Wednesday, said they had provided vaccinations and lavished care on the cats and dogs taken from their homes and killed with strays.
The government circulated a letter inside housing projects this month warning that violators of a no-pet policy would be evicted. Mayor Sol Luis Fontanez said the town ordered the removal of the pets, but he blamed the massacre on a contractor hired to take the animals to a shelter.
Fontanez said he would cancel the city's contract with Puerto Rico-based Animal Control Solutions and that city lawyers were considering a lawsuit.
Company owner Julio Diaz said he went to the bridge when he heard of the allegations, but denied that the dead animals were the ones his company collected. He said he would present his records as proof to city authorities on Monday.
"I have the dead dogs in my facility," he said Saturday. "I am a certified animal control officer. I have been doing this for nine years."
Puerto Rico's housing department has opened an investigation into who is responsible for the deaths, said Doris Gaetan, of the department's office of community relations. She said regulations in the U.S. Caribbean territory allow pets in government-funded housing projects if they are small and do not pose a risk to others.
"We do not support the way in which this was done," Gaetan said during a visit to hear the accounts of pet owners at one of the complexes.
A local resident, Jose Manuel Rivera, used a backhoe to bury the bodies of about 50 animals Saturday in a mass grave near the bridge where they were dumped.
He discovered the animals around dawn Tuesday after hearing barking and whimpers from animals who survived the 50-foot fall. He recovered six injured dogs, who were reunited with their owners after they saw their pets on a television news broadcast.
"One had a broken spine, and about all of them had broken legs," Rivera said.
Many of the pets inside the housing project were strays that were adopted by residents after wandering into the low-income neighborhood. Owners said they feel they are now paying the price for the neglect of others on an island with no pet registration law and little spaying or neutering.
"It is not our fault that they come here," said Carmen Valle, 56, who said workers seized two of her dogs. "We are humble people, but we have good hearts. Animals should be treated with decency."
Tirado said she had cared for Lucero for seven years as if the dog were her child, feeding her from the plastic table in her cramped living room and letting her sleep beside her at night.
During the raids, she said workers surrounded the housing complex and prevented anyone from leaving with pets. But she said she wishes she had never let Lucero go.
"I have been crying so much I can barely sleep," she said.