Héctor Otero 18 dogs living in deplorable conditions Naranjito, Puerto Rico July 30, 2008

Authorities raided a dog breeding facility in Naranjito after fielding tips from neighbors that the animals were kept in deplorable conditions, police reported.

The operation at a residence in the Cedro Arriba sector was staged by commonwealth police and Health Department officials armed with a search warrant signed by Bayamón Judge Marta Torres López.

Authorities found a total of 18 dogs of various breeds housed in filthy metal cages on the property. At least eight of the animals were determined to be in poor health, seized and sent to a shelter in Guaynabo, according to police.

The 43-year old owner of the property, Héctor Otero, was not arrested but could still face charges under Law 67, the island's animal cruelty statute. Authorities were expected to consult with prosecutors in Bayamón to determine whether charges would be filed.

Health Department veterinarian Carlos Carrazo gave the man 24 hours to clean up the cage complex, which is made of metal.

The man had another four dogs living inside his residence.  "His work is breeding and selling animals," said Police Department spokeswoman Mayra Ayala.

The operation was headed by Capt. Justo Alfonso, who heads the Police Department's Law 67 enforcement arm.

The island has long drawn bad press for its stray animal problem and lack of shelters, including recent reporting on the mainland about efforts by stateside animal rights advocates to save scores of abandoned canines along the so-called "dead dog beach" in Yabucoa.

Recent legislation includes a proposed animal cruelty law drafted by the Bar Association's ad hoc committee on animal welfare and presented in the Senate in May that would replace Law 67, a 1973 statute marked by weak penalties and vagueness in some definitions of cruelty.

The new law would have more teeth, including stiff penalties for fatal negligence, for intentional poisoning resulting in death, for dog fighting and many more heretofore ignored aspects of animal cruelty .

The legislation would also prohibit the sale of animals in the street, mandate the licensing of breeders and outlaw all experiments on animals in all schools, except in certain university situations.

Another bill proposed by the Veterinarians Association would require rabies shots and has been viewed as a way to develop responsible pet owners and as a source of data on pet ownership.


The San Juan Star