Police in northeastern Switzerland have detained a horse dealer suspected of cruelty to animals and closed down his farm near Lake Constance.
About 300 animals, including 90 horses, pigs, cows, sheep, goats and llamas were evacuated on Tuesday by Swiss army trucks, which took them to a military centre near the city of Bern.
The suspect lost his licence as an animal breeder, according to Walter Schönholzer of the Thurgau cantonal government.
The move comes following last week’s publication of photos of dead or malnourished horses taken by a former employee on the farm and protests by animal rights activists.
The prosecutor’s office confirmed that at least 13 horses were found dead at the farm in the village of Hefenhofen over the past few months.
Controls and convictions
The 49-year-old suspect has previous convictions for animal cruelty. A court in 2013 limited the breeder’s licence to 60 horses.
The Thurgau authorities said regular controls on the farm in the past few years had revealed shortcomings but these had always been corrected as a result of the official reprimand.
Activists staged demonstrations, held vigils and launched a massive social media campaign over the past few days. A petition was also handed in to the cantonal government calling for the authorities to intervene.
The VgT animal rights group has accused the cantonal government of turning a blind eye to a notorious animal tormentor.
More cases opened
The number of cases opened for violations of Switzerland's Animal Protection Act external linkhas increased in recent years, although this trend is put down to closer monitoring of animal welfare by authorities rather than to higher rates of mistreatment.
In 2016, the Federal Office of Food Safety and Veterinary Affairs identified 2,368 cases, which amounted to an increase of 400 over 2015. Since 2010, the number of cases has more than doubled. Dogs are involved in over 50% of animal mistreatment cases.
The Office told Swiss News Agency that of the 500 people convicted of animal cruelty cases in 2016, most were given a fine amounting to roughly CHF550 ($563) on average. But in most cases, this sentence was suspended. Ten convictions resulted in prison sentences, half of which were suspended.
swissinfo.ch with agencies/urs