One piece of paper, three lives

According to our maddening Spanish legislation, one piece of paper is worth the same as the lives of three animals. That's the only way to understand - if anyone can ever understand such senselessness - the figures in the sentence handed down to the perpetrator of the Parque Animal massacre. One false document is the equivalent of three young and healthy dogs. An illegal stamp, a pregnant bitch (with two puppies in her belly). A forged signature, three cats tortured to death. A medicine with no prescription, three more animals frozen alive. And so on until you get to the 2,000 animals slaughtered- now we can say that with no 'allegeds' or 'supposeds' - in what will go down in history as the kennels of horrors in Torremolinos.

The verdict released on Monday leaves a bittersweet taste for all those of us who love animals and try to ensure that all living beings get the respect they deserve. Sweet, because the culprits have been convicted and, in the case of the director and principal defendant, given a steep sentence of three years and nine months in prison, plus the scorn of a society that has followed the details of the case with consternation. And bitter, because the largest part of the prison sentence, two years and nine months, is for document falsification. According to Spanish Law, papers carry more weight than animals' lives.

Even the magistrate, who has given both defendants one year in prison for animal cruelty - the maximum penalty permitted by legislation - has written into the sentence a request for the Penal Code to be modified, to allow harsher sentences in cases of extreme severity such as this one. This reform would, according to the judge "allow a more proportionate punitive response to be given to this type of case".

One wonders what would have happened if, instead of using unprescribed medication and illegal documents, she had shot those poor 2,000 creatures to death (with a legal firearm), or drowned them, or burned them alive, or simply starved them to death. In other words, using any other method that did not involve falsifying documents. Would the sentence have just been one year? So she wouldn't have had to go to jail with no criminal record? It's crazy.

Justice has been done, yes, and we animal rights defenders are pleased. But after this battle comes another one, which is now in the offices of politicians and parliament. Today, in Spain, no piece of paper, however false it is, should be worth more than the life of an animal cruelly slaughtered to make room in the kennels.