Animal rights activists yesterday accused Chiayi City police of abuse in their handling of a demonstration by animal rights advocates to call for better treatment of animals and facilities at the city’s animal shelter.
“The Chiayi City Police Department is unbelievable — people who love life are called ‘slaves of dogs,’ and animal rights activists are pushed to the ground like they are wanted criminals,” Taiwan Association of People for Cats and Dogs chairman Huang Tai-shan (黃泰山) said.
“We were only staging a peaceful assembly, asking the city government to improve treatment and facilities at the city’s animal shelter. It’s regrettable that such physical clashes happened,” he added.
Having discovered abusive treatment of animals in the shelter, more than 300 animal rights advocates from across the country staged a protest outside Chiayi City Hall on Friday.
The peaceful assembly turned violent after the mayor declined to meet with the demonstrators and a security guard at the city hall allegedly called the demonstrators “slaves of dogs” as he tried to stop them from going into the building.
Demonstrators were also upset when the police refused to let Huang — who relies on a wheelchair to get around — use a wheelchair ramp to go to the public toilets inside the city hall.
Pushing and shoving between police and protesters ensued, with several officers allegedly taking down individual demonstrators.
“This is the first time that I’ve seen such horrible, brutal, barbaric abuse of unarmed animal protection activists by the police,” one of the demonstrators surnamed Liu (劉) said. “Think about where their salaries come from. It’s from us, the taxpayers’ money.”
Three of the demonstrators were arrested during the clashes and released after being questioned.
In response, Chiayi Mayor Huang Min-hui (黃敏惠) said the city government is already working to improve the shelter, adding that she “regrets to see conflict between demonstrators and the police.”
“After I received complaints from animal rights advocates in March, I personally inspected the shelter with [the city’s] economic affairs office bureau director Chen Kuang-hsing (陳光興) on April 8, and asked the shelter management to make immediate improvements,” Huang said. “I am a dog-lover myself and I have a dog of my own.”
Chen said that there is only one permanent staff member at the shelter and that only one veterinarian inspects the shelter from time to time, “but we’re making improvements and we’ve found a larger plot of land to build a new shelter.”