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RS public defender sues Cobasi and asks for compensation of R$50 million for death of animals in flood

The Public Defender's Office of Rio Grande do Sul took legal action against Cobasi, a company specializing in products and services for domestic animals that also sells 'pets'. The action seeks compensation of R$50 million for the deaths of dozens of animals for sale at two Cobasi units in Porto Alegre during the floods in early May. In total, at least 38 animals from one unit and four from another died.

In the action, the Defender's Office alleges that the company caused environmental damage, public health and psychological damage to the community, due to the images released during the authorities' work. In a note, the Defender's Office highlighted that “the amount charged represents less than 2% of the company's revenue, which is R$3 billion per year”.

In a note, Cobasi's defense called the compensation “absurd” for the amount requested, saying that it “reflects the hasty and frivolous use of the right to petition, in this case exercised outside the correct investigation of the facts”. The defense also states that “Cobasi deeply regrets what happened” and that it has ongoing support actions for the state, highlighting the sending of supplies. (See the full note at the end of the report).

Understand the case

In one of the stores, which is located in the basement of Shopping Praia de Belas, dozens of small animals such as birds, fish and rodents were left during the flood that affected the space on May 3rd. According to witnesses and mall managers, even with the shopping center closed that day, it was still possible to access the Cobasi unit in the following days and collect the animals.

As the water rose over the days, the store manager instructed employees to store the store's electronic equipment inside shopping carts, which were placed on the mezzanine, which remained intact. The animals, which were left with food and water for a few days, could be carried inside their cages but remained underground, which was completely flooded.

An excerpt from the document recalls the images of the bodies and states: “Visualizing animals as subjects of law, and mainly as living and sentient beings, who feel pain and agony, shocks the following image of 38 of them (at least) drowned, cruelly and slowly.” The lawsuit also questions whether the outcome would have been different if instead of rodents and birds it had been dogs and cats.

In the other store mentioned in the lawsuit, employees closed the establishment, claiming to have left enough food and water for five days, but did not return to the store for a week. The result was not the same as the unit located in the mall, because activists entered the store and removed the animals. Even so, four had already died.

“The Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul and Brazilian community was exposed to terrible images of corpses floating in a shopping center, images that directly referred to the cruel abandonment on the part of their guardians. Furthermore, the legal entity seriously affected public health. The decomposition of the corpses exposed and is still exposing people to various diseases”, says the public defender heading the DPE Environmental Defense Center, João Otávio Carmona Paz, who signed the action.

João Otávio claims that the contact of animals with infected sewage water leads to contamination by leptospirosis, rabies, hepatitis, among other diseases. This same water flowed through the city in a scenario where seven people have died from leptospirosis so far.

In addition to compensation, the Public Defender's Office requests that the store be prohibited from selling animals and calls for the prohibition of the use of fixed cages that are difficult to remove, in addition to the sale of animals in locations identified as being at risk of flooding.

Check out Cobasi's defense note in full, signed by lawyer Paulo Amador da Cunha Bueno:

The defense of Cobasi, a company in the Pet segment established almost 40 years ago in Brazil, having become aware of the article published on this date by the news website “UOL”, comes out to clarify the following:

1. Cobasi, like almost the entire State of RS, was surprised and has been enduring the consequences of a natural tragedy of unpredictable and catastrophic proportions, which killed families, companies, businesses and animals;
2. Unfortunately, the news released that the public defender's office filed a lawsuit seeking absurd compensation of 50 million reais, reflects the hasty and frivolous use of the right to petition, in this case exercised outside the correct investigation of the facts;
3. Cobasi had its store, located in the Praia de Belas shopping mall, in Porto Alegre, urgently vacated on Friday (03/05), making sure that all animals were placed at a reasonable height in relation to the floor, if there was water entering the store premises;
4. It turns out that, contrary to all expectations, the rains were much more violent than expected and observed in previous years, surprising the entire State due to the destructive force of the waters;
5. Given this state of affairs, the mall kept its accesses closed, making it impossible — despite attempts on subsequent days — to access the property's premises;
6. Despite the fact that the staff had left a supply of food and water for the animals for a longer period, if the closure was prolonged, the flooding went far beyond what would have been predicted, causing complete flooding and destruction of the store , with the loss of equipment, stocks and the death of birds, rodents and ornamental fish that were there;
7. Cobasi deeply regrets what happened, highlighting that it has been taking a huge action to support the State of RS, with the sending of a large amount of supplies, including to care for rescued animals, being extremely dismayed by the unfair, irresponsible and frivolous manner with which the issue has been narrated by some vehicles and public agents.

Paulo Amador da Cunha Bueno

*Under supervision

Source: CNN Brasil

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