While the police and authorities claim that everything possible was done to rescue the animals from the blaze, a complaint and a petition into the case have been launched.

PAN reported on 20 July that it filed a complaint with the Public Prosecutor’s Office for “a crime against pet animals” in Santo Tirso and will ask the Minister of Internal Affairs for clarification on the deaths of the dozens of animals following the fire.

A petition asking for “justice for the lack of assistance to the animals in the 4-legged kennel in Santo Tirso”, consumed by the flames, has already gathered more than 100,000 signatures.

GNR officers and the owner of the land are said to have prevented the animals from being saved while it was still possible.

This situation cannot go unpunished”, it said in the text of the petition, adding that animals have rights and there was a “denial of life support”, without the GNR or the landowner having done anything to save the animals and without letting them be rescued.

The GNR and the owner were “indifferent to the suffering” of the animals and must be tried and punished “for the crimes of mistreatment of pets, negligence and lack of help”, says the text.

By 19 July, at 6pm, about 45,000 people had already signed the petition, and on 20 July, at around 1am, the number of subscribers exceeded 103,000.

The Animal association on 20 July also requested the Government and parliament to determine responsibilities in the case of animal deaths in that particular shelter in Santo Tirso.

“What happened is absolutely unacceptable and the statement that the GNR made today about it is shameful. Lives were lost, which surely agonised terribly while death came, in the name of private property”, they say.

The organisation stresses that “it is governed by peaceful and legal principles”, but that it knows “in extreme cases there are ways to get into places and save lives, under the law”.

“It is unfortunate that the authorities do not know it, do not want to know, and, worse, lack the truth. I speak of police authorities, but the municipal veterinary authority was also negligent, which, unfortunately, is not uncommon”, they argue.

Animal’s president, Rita Silva, says that she asks the Government that “its responsibilities be determined and everything be done so that a disaster like this doesn’t happen again”.

“We further inform you that we have again offered our services to the Government, wanting to be part of the solution, presenting a training and awareness plan for the authorities, not only in cases of catastrophe, where we will have the collaboration of the NGO colleague SOS Animal, but also and essentially in the daily work of applying the current legislation with regard to mistreatment, omission of care and neglect against animals. We are in 2020 and the responses continue to be miserable”, they add.

The 190 animals rescued alive in the two kennels hit by a fire in Santo Tirso were welcomed in municipal kennels, associations and by private individuals, said the town hall on 20 July.

In a statement, the municipality, chaired by the socialist Alberto Costa, said that on 19 July it implemented a plan to relocate the 190 live animals that were in the two shelters: “Cantinho das Quatro Patas” and “Abrigo de Paredes”.

According to the municipality, 113 animals were rehoused in municipal kennels and associations and the remaining 77 were taken in by private individuals.

“The Municipality of Santo Tirso will undertake the vaccination and sterilisation of animals available to all associations and individuals who have homed animals from those shelters,” the statement reads.

The municipality adds that during the day “there will be a surveillance in the entire area surrounding the two animal shelters, in order to find other animals that have not been relocated”.

“Regarding the animals that died in the fire, the Municipality of Santo Tirso has also collected the bodies that were then transferred to PET Nordeste”, they added.

The Ministry of Agriculture, which oversees the DGAV, revealed on 20 July that the shelters had already been the target of “administrative offenses and inspections” by “various supervisory entities”.

According to the ministry, the two shelters “have no registration with the DGAV”.

Asked about the fact that the land around the shelter had not been cleared, the mayor of the district of Porto attributed the responsibility to the owners of the shelter.

The Minister of Internal Administration determined on 20 July that they will open an inquiry into the role of GNR and Civil Protection in the fire.

The Attorney General’s Office announced the opening of an investigation by the Public Ministry into the case.

The Santo Tirso City Council said in a statement that it considers it “regrettable that this situation is the target of political instrumentalisation” to devalue the municipality’s work in the field of animal welfare.

The Porto district council, chaired by Alberto Costa (PS), points out that “when the fire broke out in the early morning, and following the aftermath period, it was possible to remove 110 dogs alive from the shelter”.

According to the council, “a plan is in progress for the removal of other animals from that space, in order to guarantee all the conditions of treatment and animal welfare”.

“The withdrawal plan could only be carried out on 20 July, because, according to the civil protection authorities, the security conditions for the resettlement of animals during the early hours of Saturday [19 July] were not met”, reads the same note.

According to the statement, the municipality “always expressed full availability to the entities that coordinated the operations on the ground to transfer the animals to the facilities of the Kennel / Municipal Cattery, as well as to seek solutions from other institutions and partners to accommodate the animals”.

“The Municipality of Santo Tirso assumed, from the first hour, its responsibilities on the ground, as well as made every effort to safeguard the lives of the animals, not being able to override the entities that coordinated the operations”, said the statement.

“Given the high number of animals in question, contacts were established with the Directorate-General for Veterinary and with other municipalities, in order to find an alternative shelter for the remaining animals”, the chamber also said.

GNR clarified on 20 July that the death of the animals in the fire in Santo Tirso was not due to the fact that it prevented access to the site, but instead to the size of the fire and the quantity of animals.

According to GNR, following the fire that started on 18 July, in a forest area in the parish of Sobrado, municipality of Valongo, and which spread to the parish of Agrela, in the municipality of Santo Tirso, “part of a piece of land was consumed, in which there were several facilities with dogs”.

While the fire broke out in the afternoon [on 18 July], the action of the GNR was essential to allow most of the dogs to have been rescued alive, unfortunately, the size of the fire and the large concentration of animals in that prevented it being possible to rescue all the animals alive, having recovered some already lifeless”, reads the note.