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Puerto Rico police probe deaths of 16 cats, dogs

July 22, 2014

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Police launched an investigation Tuesday into the deaths of at least 16 cats and dogs found near a bridge where dozens of animals were thrown to their deaths seven years ago in a case that sparked international outrage.

Animal activists found the bodies of 11 cats and five dogs strewn underneath a bridge in the north coastal town of Vega Alta after getting calls from citizens.

“I was furious,” Angelica Mejias, president of a local animal rescue group, said in a phone interview. “This is very frustrating. There is no other word except frustration.”

Mejias said two puppies were found alive and were taken to a shelter.

Authorities said it was unclear how the animals died, but were pursuing it as a suspected abuse case.

The incident highlights Puerto Rico’s continuing struggle to curb animal cruelty despite recent actions including education campaigns and approval of a 2008 law to prosecute suspected animal abusers.

Miguel Navas, director of Vega Alta’s emergency management office, said crews had picked up the dead cats and dogs and that no necropsies were planned because activists could not afford to pay for them. He said it was the first time his office had to pick up so many animals from a particular site, but noted that animals are often found dead near that bridge.

“They throw them to their deaths in sacks,” Navas said in a phone interview. “Sometimes it’s puppies in a box.”

Puerto Rico became the target of a 2007 boycott after an animal-control company seized dozens of cats and dogs from public housing projects in nearby Barceloneta and threw them from a bridge. More than 50,000 people worldwide signed a petition threatening to boycott travel to the U.S. territory, and tourism officials estimated Puerto Rico lost more than $15 million as a result.

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