Spanish shelter head on trial for ‘killing’ over 2,000 animals

The head of an animal shelter is on trial in Spain, accused of killing over 2,000 dogs and cats in a way that provoked a "slow and painful agony," judicial authorities said on Tuesday.

Spanish shelter head on trial for 'killing' over 2,000 animals
Thousands of healthy animals were slaughtered at the Torremolinos rescue centre. Photo: Guardia Civil

Prosecutors charge the woman and the janitor of the Parque Animal centre in Torremolinos on the southern Costa del Sol injected the drugs without any previous sedation and directly into muscle tissue, instead of intravenously as recommended.

They also accuse the pair of using a smaller dose of the euthanizing drugs than is advised, to save money.

“The animals were submitted to a slow and painful agony, which was totally unjustified and which the accused were aware of since the animals contorted in pain in front of them for hours,” prosecutors wrote in charges obtained Tuesday.

They accuse the pair of having killed 2,183 animals between January 2009 and October 2010 when the alleged slaughter of the animals first came to light during an inspection of the facilities.

The pair would allegedly disconnect security cameras when they carried out these “mass extinctions” and would play loud music over a megaphone to mask the “howls” made by the animals, prosecutors added.

Warning: Video contains distressing images.

Both defendants have denied the allegations.  

The majority of animals that were allegedly killed by the pair were young and in good health, and in some cases were put down just days after being dropped off at the shelter, which was founded in 1996.

Prosecutors allege a man dropped off two puppies at the shelter in June 2010 and the animals were killed later that same day. The man had paid the shelter €60 ($64) to take in the puppies.

They believe the pair killed the animals to “reduce costs” and make room for the centre's for-profit activities.

The shelter for abandoned animals also provided paid groo ming services as well as a private animal clinic even though the director did not have a veterinary diploma.

The woman, Carmen Marin Aguilar, told the court in the southern city of Malaga at the start of her trial last week that she “loves animals”.

“I don't even dare to cut their nails,” she added, according to the Europa Press news agency.

She also said she could not have injected the animals since she has a “phobia” of needles.

The trial is expected to wrap up on December 9. Prosecutors have asked that she be given a four-year jail term for animal abuse, document falsification and the illegal exercise of the veterinary profession.

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‘Gratuitous cruelty’: Spain probes suspected abuse at animal testing lab

Spanish police and prosecutors said Monday they were investigating an animal testing lab after undercover footage showed staff there tossing around, smacking and taunting dogs, pigs and other animals.

'Gratuitous cruelty': Spain probes suspected abuse at animal testing lab
Handout: Cruelty Free International

“We were dismayed to see the images,” the head of the government’s directorate-general for animal protection, Sergio Garcia Torres, told AFP.

“It is a blatant case of animal abuse.”

Footage published Thursday by Cruelty Free International shows appears to show animals at the Vivotecnia animal testing facility being cut into apparently without having received anaesthetics.

Staff were also filmed swinging dogs and rats around and in one clip someone is drawing a face on a monkey’s genitals as the animal is pinned to a table.

The group said the footage was taken by a whistleblower who worked at the facility, which is on the outskirts of Madrid, between 2018 and 2020.

“There can be no doubt that such gratuitous cruelty causes unnecessary distress and suffering,” the animal rights group said in a statement.

“It is also unlawful.”

Police and public prosecutors said Monday they had opened separate investigations into Vivotecnia, which carries out experiments on animals for the pharmaceutical, cosmetic and food industries.

The company’s phone number was no longer working on Monday and its web site was down for maintenance.

In a statement cited by Spanish media, Vivotecnia chief executive Andres Konig said he was “shocked” at the images. But, he added, they did not “demonstrate the day-to-day reality at Vivotecnia”.

Following the outcry caused by the release of the footage, the Madrid regional government on Sunday temporarily halted activity at the animal testing facility.

Animal rights political party PACMA has filed a lawsuit against the managers of the company and urged the government to step up its supervision of animal testing.

“It’s a very opaque world and it could be that this is happening regularly without us knowing,” PACMA president Laura Duarte told AFP.

The Vivotecnia laboratory animals were examined by veterinarians and are being moved to other facilities.