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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Amendment toughens criminal penalties for abusing or threatening to abuse an animal

Puerto Rico Police Commissioner Antonio López Figueroa

By The Star Staff

The Puerto Rico Police Bureau (PRPB) and various advocacy organizations launched an educational campaign Thursday to inform citizens of an amendment to Act 54, the Domestic Violence Law, that classifies animal abuse as a modality of violence among couples.

“The new provisions strengthen the legal instruments against abusers,” Police Commissioner Antonio López Figueroa said in a written statement. “In this context, the mistreatment of an animal has ceased to be a modality that enjoyed impunity. At present, it is a crime.”

Last year, the island Legislature passed an amendment to the Domestic Violence Law that classifies the threat of mistreatment or mistreatment of pets within the behaviors defined as intimidation and psychological violence. The amendment included aggravating circumstances.

López Figueroa said seven complaints have been filed against abusers who have used animals as a form of domestic violence since last year. Still, the number does not fully reflect the reality of the problem, he added. He warned that the seemingly low number does not mean that abusers do not more often use animals as a threat or a form of control against their partners.

The police and the aforementioned entities have developed a campaign that will be displayed on social media, illustrating the relationship between animal abuse and criminal acts. In addition, the police chief urged the public to report any known abuse through emergency lines.

“As a forerunner of the cause, it is gratifying to see that awareness of animal welfare, both social and legal, continues to expand,” said Lillian García, vice president of the Social Movement for Animal Welfare (MOSPBA by its Spanish initials).

Some 160 complaints of animal abuse have been registered this year, showing an increase since the enactment of the Animal Protection Law, Act 154, in 2008. The PRPB has implemented 15 animal protection coordinators in its 13 regions.

MOSPBA, for its part, established an alliance with the PRPB to integrate educational recommendations and train agents on animal protection.

Various representatives attended a training event, including the Veterinary Physicians Association of Puerto Rico and the Domestic Violence Division of the Uniformed Forces.

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