On the morning of August 30, Guillermina Galván, an acupuncturist and animal rescuer, left the shelter she founded where she lives to go to work.
When he returned, the animal shelter where he lived with 60 dogs, four cats and a gecko was destroyed.
Galván, 45, said he was in his office virtually caring for a patient when he received a message that machines had destroyed the sanctuary he opened earlier this year.
He thought that wasn’t true, but when he returned he could see the trailers and trucks still on site while his dogs and cats were running loose. He immediately started a Facebook broadcast asking for help.
Galvan later discovered that three of his dogs and a cat had died in the incident.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Galván said as he recalled what happened. “I didn’t know what could happen. “I don’t know if I’ve ever heard of something like this happening in any country.”
According to authorities, the incident arose from a dispute over land. The private company that authorities say was involved in the eviction says the land belongs to it. But Galvan said he began the process to acquire the property in November.
The incident sparked outrage in Baja California, with elected leaders and activists condemning the incident.
“Regardless of what this confrontation between individuals looked like, we do not agree with the intrusion of machines, there being no trial and the dogs being killed,” said Ensenada Mayor Armando Ayala.
Baja California Governor Marina del Pilar Ávila said on social media that she was aware of the “outrageous attack” against the shelter, adding that there would be no impunity.
The Baja California Attorney General’s Office announced this week that a criminal case has been opened against the person or persons responsible for the crimes of damaging other people’s property, animal abuse and theft.
While processing the crime scene, a construction company’s machine was found inside the property containing the remains of three dogs, the prosecutor’s office said in a statement.
Another truck with a gondola-like box contained debris, wood, house remains, personal items, equipment and the body of a cat, it said.
“This case, rest assured, will not go unpunished,” said Baja California Attorney General María Elena Andrade.
The penal code of Baja California provides that “whoever willfully mistreats or acts cruelly to an animal shall be punished with a prison sentence of three months to two years.”
Frank Ortiz, strategic litigation coordinator at Abogados Animalistas México – a coalition of animal rights lawyers – said he hopes this case will set a precedent and that penalties for the crime of animal cruelty will be increased.
“The fact itself is frightening. It is truly outrageous to imagine the suffering of animals under this machinery,” he said.
In a post on Facebook, Ayala pointed to the company Pétreos del Pacífico as being allegedly responsible for the incident. Ayala announced the closure of the company, citing the lack of necessary permits to operate.
The company defended itself against the allegations in a statement. “We categorically deny that we injured animals with our machines while cleaning our property.”
In the statement, the company located near the shrine insisted that the land on which the shrine was located belonged to it and that no one was present at the time of the incident when the company’s personnel arrived.
The company added that it would be available to the prosecutor’s office and any other authority to “provide any evidence to support our statement.”
Roberto Curiel, the company’s general manager, insisted in a telephone interview that the animals had not been killed. He said workers released the animals from their home when they arrived at the site.
When asked by prosecutors about the animals found, he said he believed the cat may have been attacked by dogs and that the dogs’ remains were not in the trucks when workers left the site to continue the investigation.
The public prosecutor’s office is investigating the incident and said in a statement that the animals’ remains had been taken to a veterinary clinic for an autopsy.
Galván said that no one from the company in question had contacted her before the incident. Curiel said a letter was left at the scene.
Galván has been an animal lover since childhood. He grew up in Santa María, California and has lived in Mexico for 13 years. Using her own funds, she opened the Guillermina Sanctuary in the community of San Carlos in Ensenada to rescue dogs from the streets and find homes for them.
She said she was touched by the support she received from the community after the incident. People have come forward to donate dog cages and other items they lost following the incident. “I would like to take this opportunity to say to everyone: ‘Protect all animals in the world’.”
Once the relevant investigations have been completed, you can rebuild your shrine. He currently lives locally in his vehicle.
Galván said what he expects after this incident. “I never want them to do that again. Job”.