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Trial ordered in Puerto Rico pet massacre

/ Source: The Associated Press

A judge on Wednesday ordered the owner of an animal control company and two of his employees to stand trial for animal cruelty charges for the massacre in October of about 80 seized pets that were hurled off a bridge.

Following several days of hearings, Superior Court Judge Nelson Canabal ruled there was sufficient evidence for Julio Diaz, owner of Animal Control Solutions, and the two employees to stand trial for the pet massacre.

The killings of pets seized from housing projects brought revulsion around the world and triggered calls for tourist boycotts of this U.S. Caribbean territory.

"At last we are going to see justice in these killings," said Alma Febus, who investigated the case for the territorial government.

Diaz's attorney, Manuel Reyes, said he would appeal the judge's decision.

After the hearing, Diaz blamed the municipality of Barceloneta for seizing the animals and said he didn't know who threw them from the bridge. Only a half-dozen survived the 50-foot fall, some with serious injuries.

"I will no longer do any animal-related business in Puerto Rico," he said. "We are the only ones who have been blamed. We are innocent."

Municipal officials in Barceloneta, a town along Puerto Rico's north-central coast, said they hired Animal Control Solutions to remove pets from housing projects, believing that regulations banned them. Municipal officials said they understood that the company, which drove off with the animals in vans, would take them to shelters.

Instead, they wound up at the bottom of a bridge along a highway that runs between Barceloneta and San Juan.

An investigation by The Associated Press later showed that such brutal methods were routinely used in the killing of thousands of pets and stray animals.