“We continue to work for our animals. Someone has to. It’s our obligation; that’s why we’re here.” It is now a year since officers from the Guardia Civil’s Nature Protection Service (Seprona) turned up at the Triple A animal shelter in Marbella as part of an investigation into allegations of animal cruelty. The matter was passed on to an investigating court that began a judicial inquiry that is still ongoing.
The court lists a dozen people who are under investigation, including those in charge of the association and volunteers, who, despite the situation, continue their work with the animals.
After a year of ups and downs, and of differing versions of the work that the Marbella animal welfare shelter has been carrying out for nearly three decades, those responsible for the organisation remain cautious when faced with another press interview.
They firmly defend their work and maintain their innocence, but they know that, with a judicial investigation still under way, it’s best not to enter into a debate.
“When all this is over, that will be the time to say a lot of things,” said sources connected with the association, which is still waiting for the judge to reach a conclusion.
For the time being, all of those who were arrested, questioned and then released - but with the status of “investigados” - still have that shadow hanging over them. As they carry on with their activity at the shelter, this, they regret, remains under suspicion.
Meanwhile though, despite the judicial proceedings, the Asociación de Amigos de los Animales has maintained its activity, not just at the shelter but also in public, making its work as visible as possible.
“It’s been a year since all that happened but we’re still suffering the consequences. At first there were people who turned their backs, but they have gradually recovered their trust [in us] because they’ve seen that we continue to defend our animals as we always have done,” says the organisation.
Open days, dog walks and other fundraising activities have been taking place over the last year as usual to keep the shelter going.
Triple A has survived for 26 years thanks to money raised through donations, membership fees and events. According to information provided by the organisation, the monthly running costs of the shelter on the Ojén road amount to 30,000 euros.
A group with support
The Seprona operation on 11 April 2016 came just days before the celebration of the centre’s 25th anniversary. Over the years the association has received support and recognition from numerous private and public organisations (it received an annual subsidy from Marbella town hall) as well as from individuals who were all taken by surprise by the Guardia Civil’s action.
The investigation had started several months before the premises were raided and focused on the suspected offences of animal cruelty, unqualified practice, misappropriation or falsification of documents, according to Seprona. So far the individuals under investigation have been questioned and paperwork provided in an inquiry that is expected to go on for another six months.
The association has pointed to a former collaborator, a lawyer, who could have brought the alleged irregularities, which they say never existed, to the attention of the Guardia Civil.
Regular Triple A collaborators consulted by this newspaper, admit they had their reservations following the events but that they will continue to support the organisation for as long as there is no court decision that supports the allegations.