Image: Woman with her dog
Brennan Linsley  /  AP
A Puerto Rican woman, shown on Monday, says that she hid her dog, named Lady, during a raid by city workers to keep the dog from being taken away in an enforcement of the housing project's no-pet policy.
updated 10/20/2007 1:22:41 AM ET 2007-10-20T05:22:41

An investigation into the mass killing of dogs and cats seized from Puerto Rican housing projects and thrown off a bridge has confirmed the involvement of an animal control company whose owner has denied any role in the massacre, police said Friday.

Several people from the town of Barceloneta identified their dogs from among animals found dead or injured beneath the highway bridge, Sgt. Wilbert Miranda told The Associated Press.

Miranda also said local veterinarians confirmed some of the animals were from the housing projects, where local authorities hired the contractor, Animal Control Services, to pick up dogs and cats to enforce a rule banning them from the projects.

“Below the bridge they found animals .... that were taken in Barceloneta,” Miranda said in a telephone interview.

Julio Diaz, the owner of Animal Control Solutions, denied his workers disposed of the dogs and cats by hurling them off the bridge.

The animal cruelty investigation is ongoing and no arrests been made, Miranda said. Asked if the evidence points to Animal Control Solutions, he said: “That’s the way it is, I can assure you.”

International outrage
Dozens of dead and wounded dogs and cats were found last week beneath the bridge a day after a mass round up of pets and strays at the housing complexes, prompting international outrage.

Pet owners say they were told their dogs and cats were to be taken by the company — which has animal control contracts throughout Puerto Rico — to a shelter. Edwin Arroyo, a special assistant to the mayor of Barceloneta, also said the Animal Control Services was supposed to deliver them to shelters.

But in an interview with reporters earlier this week, Diaz said the animals were taken to his offices in the San Juan area, killed and placed in refrigerators. He did not explain why the animals were euthanized so quickly.

Miranda said he went to the offices of Animal Control Solutions on Thursday as part of his investigation, couldn’t find Diaz and instead encountered “an unbearable stench.”

The company owner told AP late Thursday that after police visited, he removed the bodies of animals from the refrigerators and took them to a location he would not disclose to be cremated. Although animals seized at Barceloneta are the subject of a police investigation, Diaz told AP he got rid of the ones in his refrigerators because of the smell.

Police have said those responsible could face cruelty charges that carry six-month to three-year prison terms.

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