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  • The San Juan Daily Star

Instructors in place to train on animal welfare

By John McPhaul

With the aim of reinforcing investigations leading to the prosecution of crimes against animals, the Puerto Rico Police Bureau on Thursday certified the first group of 16 instructors who will be in charge of offering, on an ongoing basis, training workshops to all members of the police force on the Law for the Welfare and Protection of Animals.

The announcement was made at a press conference by Police Commissioner Antonio López Figueroa along with Lillian García, vice president of the Social Movement for Animal Welfare (MOSPBA by its Spanish initials), and Police Academy Chancellor Francisco Rodríguez Ortiz.

MOSPBA signed a collaborative agreement with the Police Bureau and, in alliance with Puerto Rico Animals, the Organization of Animal Cruelty Investigation Officers and the Veterinary Doctors Association of Puerto Rico, was in charge of designing the courses that the Police Academy incorporated it into its curriculum last June.

Cadets entering the police force and other members of the police must take the “United for Animal Welfare” workshops as part of the effort to raise awareness of animal rights and compliance with Law 154 of 2008, which criminalizes the mistreatment of animals, the police commissioner said.

In a ceremony held at police headquarters, López Figueroa presented certificates of compliance with the training workshop to 16 academy instructors.

He said the Law 154 coordinators have already been installed in the 13 police regions.

In general terms, the new workshop deals with issues such as the healthy coexistence between humans, animals and nature, and the training and management of animals, as well as regulations and research processes.

The occasion also served to launch the educational campaign “United for Animal Welfare,” which includes videos and images on social networks, around the provisions of the law to protect animals against abuse. The videos feature the coordinators of Law 154 in the police regions.

“You have to generate empathy and compassion toward animals,” López Figueroa said. “In the domestic sphere, for example, there are many who become part of the family unit. But there are others who are abused, abandoned and thrown into the streets, and that is something we want to avoid. The training component included in our work plans is essential when dealing with citizen complaints, with due sensitivity and guided by the law. With these workshops, we reinforce research on animal abuse. However, we are aware that the effort will be insufficient if we do not guide citizens on respect for animal life.”

“In addition to the law and order element, we integrated an educational campaign into our plans,” he noted. “Added to this, by joining efforts with non-governmental sectors, we will be able to reach the people with information and data about animals, and what we, as a security agency, have to investigate.”

López Figueroa said that from January to July of this year, the police received 390 complaints of animal abuse in Puerto Rico, with dogs at the top of the list. That statistic is comparable with previous years. In 2021, 706 complaints were filed, while 678 were filed in 2020, and 701 in 2019.

García, of the MOSPBA, said “[t]he collaborative agreement with the police and the creation and incorporation of training in the academy’s curriculum represent a step forward for the progress of animal welfare, and the police are part of it.”

“Knowing that the training will be given to all members of the police and that it will be part of their training fills us with great satisfaction,” she said.

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