He spent hours behind the wheel of the bus with which he made an interurban route in the province of Ourense, or at his home in the city, alone, dispatching his aversion to dogs on social networks. And between one thing and another, he planted the streets with pieces of pate stuffed with pins. He caused panic: he managed to kill two dogs and injure dozens over four years. It was necessary the siege of a group of citizens who for more than a year guarded the streets and a joint work of three police forces (National, Local and Seprona Police) to hunt in fragants to Manuel A., “A lonely 58-year-old man,” according to a police definition, earlier this month. The judge has released him on charges, although he faces new complaints. With his identity spread, and now harassed and threatened on social networks, the “dog killer”, as he is known in the city, is secluded in his apartment. More and more alone.
“It is time to get them off the streets. Buy yourself a plot of land and let your pet loose on it. Public money does not have to end up in your dog’s ass, “Manuel wrote in a WhatsApp group created by friends of these pets long ago in which he managed to infiltrate.
In the aging province of Ourense, the company of dogs grows unstoppable. The number of those registered in the Galician Register of Identification of Companion Animals is now five times that of births. In this province, at the end of 2020, 82,141 dogs were registered, three times more than the number of children under 18 years of age. With this panorama, the cinophobia that Manuel made clear on social networks and with the distribution of the baits full of hatred and pins, found an immediate social reaction. A group of citizens began to organize with the aim of cleaning the streets of possible baits and finding the “dog killer”.
“When things started to get uglier, we started to hike at night,” says María, one of the members of the group. They met on Facebook through the page “With my dog in Ourense, yes I can”, but they screened and created smaller and smaller WhatsApp groups “because we knew that he was messing with false profiles: days that we stayed there would not be any bait ”, he explains.
Emboldened from anonymity on social networks, Manuel was expressing his hatred for dogs in an escalation that led to crimes of animal abuse. Its activity began in 2017. Then the police began to work to discover the identity of the person who distributed letters between some bars in the city threatening the owners who allowed the entry of pets.
The threats were followed two years later by pin baiting. And in 2020, the security forces began to receive complaints from citizens, accompanied by bills for veterinary expenses of between 600 and 1,000 euros for interventions due to the ingestion of the baits.
Last March, while the traps were multiplying, two people who demonstrated on social networks against the “dog killer” gave the police threatening typed letters that they had received in their respective homes.
The fence was closing. After several follow-ups, Manuel was identified in the places where the baits appeared and the surveillance led to his arrest when he threw 18 baits with pins in a park. In the subsequent home search they intervened a bar of chóped and pate for dogs, two boxes of pins, two posters of “forbidden dogs” with handwritten phrases such as “Why don’t you eat his kaka [sic] and you drink his urine, not that, right, better the public sidewalk ”, a typewriter and a typewritten letter of the same typeface as those received by the two complainants. Members of the Alfinete police operation (pin, in Galician) argue that if Manuel had opted for a type of poisoning, the disaster would be of much greater proportions.
Lynching on social media
His arrest brought widespread relief, but also his lynching in the same social networks in which he had grown up. “As soon as someone slipped the name of this man, some came very up and began to threaten him,” laments Alberto Rodríguez, a member of the Agallas animal group, dedicated to rescuing forgotten dogs from the kennels, which does not rule out that there may be more people carrying carried out the same abuse practice in the city. Convinced that it is unlikely that he will go to jail, the members of the group trust that “he will have the maximum possible sanction and that he will serve as an example.” Other animalist associations such as Libera and the platform Familias polo Respeto Animal urge to modify the law to “severely punish” the use of poison or pins as “cruelty”.
The law for the protection and welfare of companion animals in Galicia establishes that in serious cases, such as pin traps, fines of between 5,000 and 30,000 euros can be imposed if the death of the animal or irreparable damage occurs, and if it is appreciated cruelty, a prison sentence of up to 18 months.
With the “dog killer” now being investigated for a continuing crime of animal abuse and being held in his apartment with the blinds down, there are those who attribute the authorship of new baits distributed after his arrest, this time in the neighboring municipality of Barbadás. An authorship doubted by Civil Protection and the mayor of that town, Xosé Carlos Valcárcel, convinced that the baits are due to a “pull effect”; something that they assure that it is punctual and that they believe they have located.