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Dead animals found at Parque Animals in 2011. SUR
The animal shelter case that shocked Spain: Hundreds of dogs and cats euthanised for money to finance luxury lifestyle
Animal welfare

The animal shelter case that shocked Spain: Hundreds of dogs and cats euthanised for money to finance luxury lifestyle

More than 2,000 animals were agonisingly killed at the Parque Animal Torremolinos premises on the Costa del Sol while Carmen Marín, the non-profit association's former boss, used funds to stay in top hotels around the world

Alberto Gómez

Torremolinos

Monday, 17 June 2024, 15:00

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The judicial process of Parque Animal, the fake shelter in Torremolinos where hundreds of dogs and cats were killed for money, has lasted almost 15 years. The case, which sent shockwaves across Spain, has so far resulted in two prison sentences for Carmen Marín, the shelter's former boss, for crimes of misappropriation, false documentation and animal abuse. These are the keys to one of the most serious cases of animal abuse in the country.

What was Parque Animal?

In theory, it was a non-profit association. Founded in 1996, its supposed aim was to collect abandoned animals and find responsible owners to provide them with new homes. Years later it came to have a kennel and a zoosanitary centre. It was financed by donations from its members and profits from the kennel, and also received around 27,500 euros each year from Torremolinos town hall, which owned the land. The association also charged every person who left an animal at the shelter.

What happened?

In June 2010, Guardia Civil launched an investigation following a complaint of animal abuse by a veterinarian who had worked at the association. The employee provided several recordings made by mobile phone to prove animals were being euthanised in a cruel manner. In a devastating report, Guardia Civil's animal protection unit (Seprona) reported that, during a surprise visit to the shelter's facilities, found freezers with 44 cats, seven dogs, a seagull and two boxes with offal of chopped meat.

Some of these animals would have been frozen before their death, according to post mortem results. In the rubbish bin, officers also found "two dead cats in plastic bags and dangerous sanitary waste". Guardia Civil also seized five invoices, charged to Torremolinos town hall, for the cremation of 702 animals (dogs and cats) between 30 April and 31 August 2010. The agents were "astonished by the high number of animals cremated in only five months".

How were the animals slaughtered?

The deaths, carried out by Marín and an assistant, were carried out without veterinary supervision and on days the prosecutor's office described as "authentic extermination sessions". Both would enter the cages early in the morning to euthanise the animals. Beforehand, they would turn off the security cameras and turn up the volume of the radio, connected to the loudspeakers, to silence the yelps of the animals, which would go on for hours as the animals received a lesser dose of the euthanasia product than necessary to save costs. The product was injected intramuscularly instead of intravenously, which caused the animals to suffer painfully and slowly.

Marín outside her first trial. A. G.

Witnesses

During the trial, one of the employees told Guardia Civil officers that Carmen Marín "boasted about killing animals and criticised that the rest of us spent a lot on euthanasia product and told us that with a less dose they also ended up dying", although the poor administration of it caused "agony" in the pets. The prosecutor estimated that, "by such a cruel procedure", the defendants "slaughtered and cremated" more than 2,180 animals between the months of January 2009 and October 2010. Employees also claimed on one occasion, Marín ran out of animals and went to the El Paraíso shelter in Alhaurín de la Torre to look for dogs.

Other witnesses reported they picked up dogs or cats found in the street to take them to the park and that, hours later, when the owners were located, they had disappeared. The official excuse was that they had been put up for adoption, but the law states that abandoned or lost animals cannot be euthanised until at least ten days after they have been received.

Why did she do it?

For money. The provincial court has just sentenced Marín to two years in prison for a continuous crime of misappropriation after finding she used funds from the Parque Animal association, which was donated by the public, "with the intention of illicit profit and to execute a set out plan". She made payments to a department store for the amount of 104,384 euros to refurbish and decorate the aesthetic medicine clinic of one of her daughters in Los Álamos, the court heard. She also bought a car for 14,000 euros. Marín also made purchases at a well-known supermarket, a car rental service and a department store for wholesalers, the court heard.

The Parque Animal account was also used by Marín and her family to

pay for 20 classes at a driving school, monthly fees at a gym and a home security system. The sentence, seen by SUR, also claimed Marín paid for stays in luxury hotels in Marbella, Lisbon, Salamanca, Nerja, Bilbao, Jerez de la Frontera, Marrakech, Boston and Saint Petersburg. All these expenses were charged to the current accounts of the fake animal shelter in Torremolinos. Marín made payments in restaurants for amounts in excess of 11,000 euros between 2008 and 2010, the court also heard.

Will she go to prison?

Marín was in prison for more than two years for falsifying documents and animal abuse. She served her sentence but now has been thrown behind bars again: another two years in prison for misappropriation. She will also need to pay more than 300,000 euros. This new sentence can be appealed before the Supreme Court, so it is not known whether Marín, who also claims she suffers from health issues, will return to prison.

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