Puerto Rico – Mario Artega is 61 years old, is a veterinarian by profession, resides in Florida and has been in Puerto Rico since December with the intention of moving to the Island and starting a project that he has to help people with physical disabilities -like him- so they can get wheelchairs and have a better quality of life.
Artega was staying in a hotel in San Juan while he was documenting physically disabled people on video whom he wanted to help. At one point, on December 25, 2020, when he was alone in his hotel room, he falls and, unable to get up, crawls outside to ask for help.
Once outside, the police get him an ambulance, but Artega didn’t want to go without his service dog. However, Artega alleges that she was forcibly removed and forced to go to a psychiatric hospital, rather than a regular hospital where they examined the injury to her back from the fall.
“Two ambulances went by and they always wanted to take the dog away from me and I said no, it’s the law. I can verify it and based on ‘tazer’ they made me hand over the dog and then they gave me a hit and they gave me to a state psychiatric hospital instead of a hospital to check my back, “said Artega about what he called abuse.
Artega expressed his grief and indignation with what is happening with the police authorities, especially in San Juan, where he understands that they are abusive towards tourists and disabled people and they forget that they are there to protect them.
“We disabled people have rights just like other people. That bitch is an extension of me and it should never have been taken from me, ”he said disconsolately.
His goal is to return to the United States to undergo surgery where they will put a prosthesis to walk again and it will be done for free because it is experimental.
Artega has been in a wheelchair for 4 to 5 years and for him this surgery is a tremendous opportunity. You wouldn’t want to have to go back to Florida without your dog “Candela”. His surgery is on February 16 and he must return at least 14 days before to do a quarantine, if necessary.
“The Puerto Rico Police still have my dog for more than three weeks. I do not know what law I am charged with or if I have to appear myself. The police have not given me any information and they do not respond to my calls, ”said Artega.
As he explained in an interview with La Perla del Sur, the last thing they told him was that they would return his dog last Friday, but that did not happen.
Artega is staying at a hotel in Ponce right now and is waiting for the police to deliver his service dog and to answer his calls. He does not understand why they accuse him of “animal abuser” and of being “crazy”, when his profession is a veterinarian, he is missing a leg so he is physically disabled to walk and he was only in Puerto Rico to start a project that has to help other people with physical disabilities just like him.
For this reason, he calls on the pertinent authorities to return his dog from service so that he can return to Florida in time for his surgery, since he is spending around $ 400 a day between lodging, food and transportation; but the time for quarantine is running out.