San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Animal-Abuse Calls Received by the Dozen

THE yelps of dogs from their neighbor’shouse for several days finallyprompted two women in the west CentralValley town Santa Ana to call for help.Suspecting that their neighbor wasbeating his three dogs, they made a phonecall that was one among the nearly 1,800abuse and neglect reports that animalshelters in the Central Valley receiveevery month.Cecilia Jiménez and Ana Valverde setin motion the events that lead to the confiscationof their neighbor’s dogs. Two ofthe three were injured and were later treated,and their former owner attended a hearingbefore a misdemeanors court. There, hesigned a statement promising not to takeother animals into his home and to seekpsychiatric treatment.“I feel content that we saved threedogs,” Jiménez said. She said she andValverde had seen their neighbor kick andbeat the dogs with a broom, but he told TheTico Times he had never mistreated them;rather, they were hit by cars.A veterinary report later cast doubt onthe car story, saying there was no sign of“injuries by dog bites, nor… signs of anautomobile accident.”The women’s abuse report had reachedDiana Holder, director of National AnimalProtection Association (ANPA), who wasinstrumental in the rescue of the dogs andthe court action against the neighbor.“He didn’t want any problems,” Holdersaid. “It was so successful. We came to anagreement pretty quickly and everythingseems okay. If he breaks those rules the casewill reopen and we’ll take him to trial.”Now, they are looking for caringhomes for the dogs.THOUGH theirs may be a successstory, action on hundreds of abuse reportsevery month sputters when confrontedwith weak laws, an unwillingness toenforce them, and fear or apathy amongcallers who fail to follow through with thereport procedures.Even in the case mentioned above, oneof the police officers who first arrived withHolder to investigate, Capt. Luis Cruz, saidbefore the hearing he was skeptical courtaction would work.“Many people file complaints, butnothing comes of it,” he said.Two Costa Rican animal shelters contactedby The Tico Times reported beinginundated with animal-abuse calls – theANPAshelter in Coronado, northeast of SanJosé, and the Humanitarian Association forAnimal Protection (AHPPA) shelter in SanRafael de Heredia, north of San José, saidthey receive an average of 25-30 calls perday.“IT’S just awful,” Holder, of ANPA,said. “Dogs starving to death, tied to a treewith no shelter, dogs that have been hit bycars, with bones broken, either by a neighboror someone else, poisoned.”She said the calls come in from all overthe country and there has been no improvementsince the law changed earlier thisyear (TT, Feb. 20).“People haven’t woken up to the factthat there are laws in place,” she said. Still,she is optimistic that they will eventuallywork. With the laws in place, ANPA hasmore power and can take animal abusers tocourt, she said.Animal abuse is not a serious offensein Costa Rica. Lawyer Henry Mora, who,with his son, works to defend pet owners’rights and clarify the laws of ownership,calls the punishments for abuse here a“farce.”Though the Health Ministry acted tofortify animal treatment laws in February,Mora and other animal rights advocatessay they are not satisfied.IN cases of abandonment and abuse,Mora said, it is a misdemeanor that onlywarrants a fine after multiple violations, orin extreme cases.“We are pendejos when it comes toapplying laws,” he said. “We are cowards.It’s against the law to litter but nobodypunishes anybody. It’s against the law todamage plants in the park, but nobody punishesanybody. Here, nobody concernsthemselves with anything.”Alejandra Zúñiga, coordinator ofANPA’s castration program, said the passageof the new laws has raised awarenessslightly and the shelter now receives morecalls.When shelter workers receive abusecalls, she said, they ask for the pet owners’phone numbers, then call them and tellthem about animals’ rights and the newrules. In some cases, they send an ANPAvolunteer inspector. They also recommendthat the caller file a complaint with theMinistry of Health. To do so, call 255-1427and ask for the number of the nearestregional office (área rectora).THE two injured dogs rescued inSanta Ana need new homes. VictoriaKirk, who is giving them a temporaryhome, said they are fully recovered andready for adoption. Both are small andhousetrained. Those interested can callKirk at 392-0129.Many other dogs also need adoption.The ANPA shelter, in Coronado, can bereached at 255-3757, 233-0779, or throughthe Web site Heredia animal shelter, north ofSan José, can be reached at 267-7158.

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