Guilty Verdict in Puerto Rico Horse Abuse CasePosted by Stephanie Ulmer, Guest Blogger on October 15th, 2010
The Associated Press on September 16th reported that a man accused of dragging a “stubborn” horse alongside his truck has become the first person convicted by a Puerto Rico jury under an animal protection law enacted after dogs were thrown to their deaths from a bridge. Georgenan Lopez, 24, is scheduled to be sentenced in November and could face up to 15 years in prison. The horse has recovered from most of its injuries last February, but it still limps and can never be ridden. Animal activists hailed the conviction as evidence that the U.S. Caribbean territory is slowly, but surely, recognizing animals' rights and prosecuting cruelty cases.
The animal protection law was approved in August 2008, nearly a year after authorities charged the owner and two employees of a private animal control company with taking away dozens of pet dogs and some cats from public housing projects and throwing them off a bridge. The three were acquitted, and international anger led more than 50,000 people worldwide to sign a petition threatening to boycott travel to the Caribbean island. Tourism officials estimated Puerto Rico lost more than $15 million as a result.
It is possible Lopez will appeal the verdict, but the message remains that people will be prosecuted for mistreating animals, said Yeidy Velazquez, president of Citizens for Animal Shelter in Aguadilla. "It is a triumph for us," she said. And I agree. I remember the infamous bridge incident, and I have kept it in the back of mind, to be pulled up any time Puerto Rico is mentioned. At least there have been steps to turn that tragedy into something positive.