Protesters in front of El Capitolio. (Ramón “Tonito” Zayas)
In commemorating World Animal Day, environmental groups demanded the permanent closure of the Dr. Juan A. Rivero Zoo, in Mayagüez, and that all animals be transferred to sanctuaries outside the island to guarantee their rights and well-being.
The demonstration called by the organization Vínculo Animal PR, in front of the Capitol, also served to demand that the government disclose documents and information on the administration and operation of the country's zoos . The group filed an application to that effect before the Court of First Instance.
The president of the organization, Sahir Pujols Vázquez, explained that they have requested information from the government on several occasions, and they have been denied. As a result of this situation, the group chose to go to court and based its decision on the “Law of Transparency and Expedited Procedure.”
The appeal was filed last Friday against the government of Puerto Rico; the governor, Wanda Vázquez Garced ; and the secretary of the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (DNER) , Rafael Machargo Maldonado.
“They don't allow us to go into zoos. We want to know what proposals and what future they have for animals that have been in very poor conditions for three years because they do not have money to renew exhibition licenses. Why do we want to have them there in a state of constant deterioration if we have the alternatives of removing them from there? ”Said the activist.
According to Pujols Vázquez, the Mayagüez Zoo does not have the funds to take care of the animals effectively and does not have the permits and licenses required by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA, in English) to operate.
“After various requests for information, this appeal has been filed given the constitutional provision of access to information. We know that the Puerto Rico Zoo is part of the agency of the Department of Natural Resources, and therefore, as citizens and as a group with a high interest in the welfare of animals, we are demanding the information under this special resource ”, said the lawyer Tania Delgado Díaz, from the Animal Rights Commission of the Bar Association.
Joel Seijo, DRNA press officer, told this newspaper that Machargo Maldonado has not received any request at the moment. “The secretary is in the best availability and does not have any type of problem in providing the information that they are requesting,” he said.
The legal recourse also requires that the governor deliver documents on government efforts or projects to address the situation of homeless animals on the island. Meanwhile, Pujols Vázquez stressed that they have maintained contact with three sanctuaries in the United States that have agreed to cover all the costs of transporting the animals.
“Apart from that transfer proposal, we have one to build an ecological park in Mayagüez (with the zoo facilities). So the closure does not imply that people are going to lose their jobs or be abandoned, but that they are going to transform, “he emphasized.
Vínculo Animal PR also created a document by which they seek that candidates for elective positions in the government commit to achieving the closure of the Mayagüez Zoo and the immediate transfer of all animals to sanctuaries.