Sunday, May 22

They demand justice in the macrocause of dog fights in Madrid and the Canary Islands

What requirements should an organization have to be considered as such? We would be talking about a clear hierarchy, established procedures, a stable structure and even its own jargon. As far as we know, the plot that the police investigated and dismantled in a major operation in 2017 fulfilled all of them.

Many of its members had no legal job or income, but had hundreds of euros in their wallets at the time of arrest. The ringleaders were not known to have any work activity, but they owned several properties and one of them, Rafa, regularly traveled with dogs to countries in South America, China or Thailand.

These are at least 23 people who from Madrid, Alicante, Murcia, Almería, Málaga and the Canary Islands had been tormenting hundreds of dogs in many and very perverse ways for more than a decade. Among them, two veterinarians (one in Madrid and one in the Canary Islands) and a Local Police from the Tenerife municipality of Adeje.

Five years after the successful investigation operation, including wiretapping, carried out by agents of the Judicial Police, the Superior Police Headquarters of the Canary Islands and the police stations of Tenerife, Alicante and Murcia, the trial has just begun.

a life of torment

From the moment they were born until they died in the ring or because of the injuries sustained, the life of the animals in the hands of these people would have been one of continuous physical and psychological suffering. Captivity, terrible hygienic and health conditions, extreme training, inadequate nutrition, supply of substances such as doping or anabolic (even for human use), are some of the torments to which they would have been subjected.

After the arrests in the middle of the fight in Güímar, Tenerife, the police searched the estates of the accused. What they found chills the blood: dozens of dogs in a deplorable state, surrounded by dirt and excrement, many without water or food, without space to move or take shelter from inclement weather. Most of them with serious infections. Poorly stitched wounds with staples placed by people with no veterinary training or experience. In addition, a multitude of animal corpses appeared on several of the farms, as well as many of the dogs rescued by the Saving Angels Without Wings Association (SASA)) had to be euthanized.

The fate of the dogs used for sparring it was especially painful. Defenseless, alone, given over to be destroyed during the “bumps”, not having the corpulence, age, or experience necessary to be able to face adversaries as victims as themselves. In one of the records in Alicante, a large number of chihuahuas were found.

When the vet is your abuser and the policeman is not your friend

Among the components of the plot, two veterinarians and a Municipal Police. What future do animals have if precisely those people who must ensure their well-being are the same ones who earn their living by martyring them? What hope can we have in justice if the legal operators themselves continue to see these daunting scenarios as a misdemeanor?

The alleged role of the veterinarians, one in Madrid and the other in the Canary Islands, was to supply the organization with everything necessary for decades to be able to carry out their crimes with impunity and without arousing any type of suspicion. Blank cards and passports to be able to travel with any dog, prescriptions also blank, serum to recover badly injured dogs after fights and other types of substances, including euthanasia. Only the leaders of the organization had direct contact with these veterinarians, whom they called “orito en cloth”. Apparently they were perfectly aware that, without their collaboration, they would not be able to continue their activity.

Especially valuable was also the help of the Local Police of Adeje who, according to the indictment, not only provided anabolics for human use that were injected into animals, but also actively participated in the fights and had more than 40 dogs in a state especially terrifying. His farm overlooked a cliff where decomposing bodies were found.

possible pact

After attempting an agreement of conformity that would not have been accepted by some of the defendants -among them the two veterinarians- an agreement could be reached with the Prosecutor’s Office that, as the lawyer Francisca Gutiérrez explains, “is based on the application of mitigating circumstances that can reduce the sentence, in exchange for acknowledgment of the facts.”

It is worrying, since the Prosecutor’s Office “could separate itself from the popular accusations in what could be the classification of the crime of organization as a criminal group,” says Gutiérrez, who is in charge of the popular accusation of Podemos Canarias in the case. “With the application of mitigating circumstances, it would entail less punishment than those requested by the accusations.”

Also from the popular accusation exercised by the SASA association, they contemplate this scenario with great concern: “If the members of a criminal organization that were dedicated to making dogs die in fights, with more than 200 animals seized, they are asked for the penalties that are being requested by the Public Prosecutor’s Office, there is no hope for animal protection in this country,” says lawyer Nuria Ochoa. “If an Environmental Prosecutor’s Office does not request an exemplary sentence in this case, when is it going to do so?”

The trial is underway and nothing has been decided yet. Francisca Gutiérrez, who is also a member of the INTERcids association, Legal Operators for Animals, points out that “the popular accusations will work so that the activity carried out by those investigated is qualified as a crime of criminal organization before the Court and so that the penalties are higher to those of the Prosecutor’s Office. Our purpose is to increase the sentence as much as possible, so that justice is done with these animals, within the limits of the principle of legality. We are also going to demand civil responsibility from the accused.”

Cases of animal abuse, especially dogs, arouse increasing rejection in society. This one, with so many animal victims and so much systematic cruelty and violence, produces a special disgust. This is demonstrated by the petition started by one of the shelters on the Change platformwhich has exceeded 20,000 signatures in a few days.

Although some institutions are already beginning to realize this reality, there is still a long way to go and we will encounter great resistance. This is how lawyer Ochoa recognizes it: “The crime of animal abuse seems to be a second-class crime, introduced in the Penal Code only to silence a large part of society.”

In the presence of minors

As if that were not enough, the fights were carried out in the presence of minors, relatives of the accused themselves. This circumstance is not only an aggravating circumstance at the criminal level, but should raise all the alarms from the point of view of a society that protects children and groups in vulnerable situations.

The Asociation CoPPA, Coordinator of Professionals for the Prevention of Abuses, has been working for years in this field. “Studies show that animal abuse can impact the development of empathy in children and adolescents and perpetuate the cycle of violence. Some minors may suffer from anguish, fear, depression and even symptoms of trauma, including, for example, nightmares and sleep disorders.

This is especially bloody when the adults who accompany the minor in these shows – their relatives and references as in this case – cheer and celebrate the violence. “The presence of a close adult who expresses enthusiasm could even exacerbate the harmful impact on the child”, warn from CoPPA.

“The normalization and learning of aggressive attitudes and behaviors is associated with antisocial behaviors in adolescence, such as bullying and delinquency, and interpersonal violence in adulthood”, they add.

What would these dogs be like if they were treated with respect?

Most of the people who label these breeds as “murderers” do not know them. Beatriz de la Torre is president of the association SOS Pitbull & Horses. She adopted her misnamed PPP at the age of 20 and as a result of that she began to train as an educator. The association was created in 2013 and since then more than 100 dogs have passed through it. “We assess what their needs are, we work with them and find them a compatible family.”

“Sensitive” is the word that Beatriz repeats the most during our conversation to refer to her dogs. “One of the things that people believe is that they are very strong, that they put up with everything and that they have to be educated based on force, corrections and imposition,” she explains. “In fact, one of their primary needs is contact with human beings. They really like the presence in contact, they need it, both with the human being and, if they have a partner, with their partner”.

“Misunderstood” is the word that echoes in my head as I listen to her speak. “They are dogs that live locked up, chained and the people who raise them do not keep them in good condition. They can become reactive, but not because of their typology, but because of the way they are mistreated”, points out the educator. “If they treat you with sticks you will be more reactive than if they treat you in a kind way. They are very sensitive dogs and it is true that they have strong potential, but if you don’t handle them with punishment and fear, that potential can be used for very good things”.

As a result of legislation that stigmatizes them and of “owners” such as those accused in this process, these breeds are victims of poor socialization that can lead to developing relationship problems with other dogs. “However, if they are helped to manage, most of the dogs here get along well with the others and do not have any problems. Some have been able to come with a lot of stress, fear or bad experiences and the vast majority have evolved and go out with other dogs for a walk”.

The animals seized from the horrendous fights have had to wait five years to get a second chance. Now, they can finally be given up for adoption through SASA. Good news, important but insufficient. That their aggressors go to jail and that they do not have the opportunity to torture any animal again is the news that we would really like to give.