Animal Abuse in Querétaro: More than 400 Pending Cases Despite Existing Laws

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Over the last five years, only 3.6% of the investigation files for animal abuse and cruelty have been prosecuted, according to data from the State Attorney General’s Office, obtained by Tribuna de Querétaro through an information access request. Between 2018 and August 2023, 406 files related to these crimes have been opened.

However, the path to justice becomes more complicated. Querétaro made history in 2023 by issuing the first sentence for animal abuse in Querétaro, against Benjamín N., accused of poisoning and killing the rescue dogs Athos and Tango. Initially, he received a sentence of 10 and a half years in prison, but on February 1, it was revoked by a federal court, so he may not serve jail time.

For Alicia Lobato, president of the civil association Miztontli, for animal defense, these figures reflect the need to strengthen laws on the matter, provide “sensitization” and “empathy” courses to justice providers. Similarly, it is necessary to promote awareness exercises among society to emphasize the importance of the issue.

Animal abuse is considered a behavior that causes suffering and death to living beings. In Latin America, this type of violence ranks third and occurs in three out of every seven pets, according to figures from the National Institute of Geography and Statistics (Inegi).

Regarding the files opened in Querétaro, the request with file number 221277423000462 explains that in 2018, 34 files were opened and only one was prosecuted; in 2019, 42 files were opened and two were prosecuted; in 2020, 50 files were opened and one was prosecuted; in 2021, 72 were opened and only three were prosecuted; in 2022, 107 files were opened and only four were prosecuted; finally, until August 26, 101 files were opened and only four have been prosecuted.

Among the animals that were victims of abuse or cruelty, the Prosecutor’s Office details that there were 353 dogs, 27 cats, 10 cows, six horses, three roosters, two donkeys, one calf, one rabbit, one pigeon, and one iguana. In addition, there have been investigation files in all 18 municipalities of Querétaro, with the state capital having the most cases counted each year.

It is worth noting that several of the aforementioned files have been determined as “No Exercise of Criminal Action” or are still under process, a situation that can be attributed to an agreement between the complaining party and the accused, although the resolution of the files is not specified in the document sent to this weekly.

In an interview for this weekly, Alicia Lobato, an animal activist, acknowledged that the Prosecutor’s Office has opened the doors to create working groups on the subject, but that the lack of empathy and sensitization is not strengthened among all prosecutors.

“What is missing is sensitization, and I think it is necessary to implement processes so that, when a complaint is filed, the process begins (…) obviously they (prosecutors) see terrible cases towards our own species, and then for them it’s like ‘it’s just an animal’ (…) when an animal dies from animal abuse, (the crime) should be addressed in the same way as it happens with a human, because it is already typified.”

The Penal Code of Querétaro establishes that for acts of cruelty and animal abuse, sentences of 12 months to 5 years in prison will be imposed, and from 200 to 300 times the value of the Unit of Measure and Update (UMA). If the previous injuries cause the death of the pet, it will be punished with 3 to 7 years in prison and from 500 to 700 times the value of the UMA.

In contrast, within the Penal Code of Mexico City, people who cause injuries to animals are punished with six months to two years in prison, as well as 50 to 100 days of fines. If the abuse causes the death of the animal, the sentences will be doubled by half.

On the other hand, Article 37 of the Animal Protection Law of the State of Querétaro establishes that “cruel behaviors towards animals are those acts or omissions that, being unnecessary, harm their health, physical integrity, instinct, development or growth.” It also describes acts of abuse towards animals, such as keeping them caged, without food, lack of veterinary care, among others, which are sanctioned with fines according to the severity of the facts.

Despite the laws and sentences described, which protect animal rights in Querétaro, Alicia Lobato considers that the penalties “are not enough”; however, she expresses that it is not only about criminalizing people, but also about seeking strategies to prevent animal abuse.

“We continually see that people, out of habit, keep dogs in places like rooftops, tied up, and that normalizes the abuse of animals, because then we see that it is normal for a dog to be on a rooftop getting wet and getting sick (…) Authorities certainly have to improve the penalties but also have to start working on prevention programs, and at the same time society also has to inform ourselves a little more.”

Lobato reiterated that violence against animals is also an indicator to measure other types of violence in society and on which crime prevention should be worked on. “I think the authorities need to meditate a lot on the fact that this whole situation of animal abuse is not just anything and that it should be addressed with due seriousness,” said Alicia Lobato.

Athos and Tango

A cruel poisoning of three dogs in Querétaro was made known in June 2021: Athos, Tango, and Balam. The first two died, while the third managed to survive. A year later, this case became the first trial in Querétaro that ended in a conviction for the crime of animal abuse.

Athos was a border collie and was a rescuer of missing persons; Tango was a Yorkshire that helped children with anxiety and depression disorders. Both belonged to the Mexican Red Cross team in Querétaro and were under the tutelage of trainer Edgar Martínez.

Through security cameras, it was discovered that Benjamín “N”, a neighbor of Edgar, placed poisoned sausages on the street just before the dogs went out for a walk. Thus, Benjamín “N” was accused of animal cruelty and his case reached the last instances, marking a historic process never seen before in the entity, as these cases are usually resolved by reparatory agreements.

The sentence, issued by Judge Alicia Basurto García, was for 10 years and 6 months, in addition to compensation of 2.4 million pesos and a fine of 115 thousand pesos. This achievement was thanks, on the one hand, to the reform of the Penal Code of the State of Querétaro, approved on August 29, 2014, as well as to the legal efforts of Edgar Martínez’s representative, lawyer Mónica Huerta Muñoz.

Huerta expressed that it was possible to demonstrate the guilt of Benjamín “N” through neighbors, who stated that he acted with premeditation, as he inquired into the daily routine of the dogs and discovered that they consumed sausages as a reward. These proofs showed the advantage and intentionality with which Benjamín “N.” proceeded.

On the other hand, the compensation was calculated based on the social value and certifications that Athos and Tango possessed. In the case of the former, he was one of the few dogs that could perceive smells under water and locate submerged people.

On February 1, a federal judge granted protection to Benjamín ‘N.’ so that he would not go to jail and his sentence could be commuted for a fine.

Max and Julio were playing with three other little dogs on March 24, 2022, in the middle of a street in the Las Américas neighborhood. Adolfo “N.” was driving a dump truck in the same place and ignored the five dogs, as he did not stop at any moment, which led to the death of Max and Julio: this was recorded by a security camera.

More than a year later, the trial against the alleged culprit began on August 15. This case was also handled by attorney Mónica Huerta, although the sentence was not the same as in the previous case. Adolfo “N.” only received a sentence of 5 years in prison and minimal damage compensation.

Activist and member of the Mexican Alliance for Animal Welfare, Adriana Arellano, described the sentence as “a mockery,” and disapproved of the authorities accusing the plaintiffs of wanting to profit from their pets. Additionally, she denounced that the aggressor could be released on bail for 10,000 pesos.

Attorney Huerta stated that, as in the case of Athos and Tango, the man sentenced for the death of Max and Julio could be free for up to a year before definitively going to prison, a situation that depends on legal deadlines.

There are other cases where justice is pending for these sentient beings. Ali was an Australian cattle dog who died after being run over on January 13, 2023, by a drunk driver. The puppy’s owner reported that the driver, along with two other passengers, got out to beat him and mock the incident.

After going to the Prosecutor’s Office and waiting eight hours, the person who took the statement from the aggrieved party received the facts with mockery and no empathy: “they said that my case was not as important as the others (…) they treated us as if (the pet) was a piece of furniture,” said Ali’s owner.

Exactly nine months later, on October 13, members of the Ali Foundation closed a lane of highway 57 for two hours to demand progress in the investigation file CI-QRO-1717-2023, which to this day remains unresolved. They also denounced that it is not the only file ignored by the Prosecutor’s Office, as the collective has filed more complaints that have been forgotten.

Negrito

On the other hand, on October 2, 2023, it was spread on social networks that Negrito, a small breed puppy, had been found inside a cardboard box: he was dead and showed signs of torture. The Qariño Animal collective reported that, in previous days, Negrito had been adopted by Marco “N,” a German resident in the locality, which led to an immediate complaint to the Prosecutor’s Office.

The alleged killer of the puppy had adopted the dog to later subject it to violence, take its life, and throw it away in the Niños Héroes neighborhood, and until that moment, he continued to request the adoption of other dogs. Initially, he was also accused of committing acts of zoophilia towards the puppy, but Alejandro Echeverría Cornejo, the State Attorney General, declared that such accusation was dismissed after expert reports.

Attorney Mónica Huerta joined the legal defense for Negrito, but in the days following the events, Huerta and the complainant from Qariño Animal reported being victims of defamation, threats, and acts of disrepute against them by Marco “N.”

“He began to attack the complainant and threaten that if she did not withdraw the complaint, something bad would happen (…) he continues with me, so he begins to try to accuse me, attack me, send obscene messages, talking about me, defaming me, saying that I have a cartel, that I have an extortion network because I dedicate myself to this issue of animals, that everything is a lie.”

The attorney pointed out that both the complainant and herself already have protective measures from the Prosecutor’s Office, but the aggressions continue as Marco “N,” despite the four investigation files against him, harasses them through social digital networks.

“The Negrito file has not progressed. We have approached the Prosecutor’s Office in many ways, trying to find a basis that allows us to control the issue with this man a bit, because it is a constant aggression with all the people involved in the process.”

On Friday, October 6, 2023, the Qariño Animal association held a demonstration on the street where Negrito was abandoned. There, they called on the authorities to continue addressing the investigation file and to condemn the aggressor.

Source: Tribuna de Queretaro