Late last week the ASPCA issued a press release in response to the tremendous outpouring of public concern over a 2007 art exhibition by Costa Rican artist Guillermo Habacuc Vargas that featured an emaciated dog. Because reports on the duration of the exhibit and the condition and fate of the dog vary widely—including those issued from the Nicaraguan gallery involved and Vargas himself—it is impossible at this time to know conclusively what happened, or if the images and stories flooding the Internet are real. However, the ASPCA understands and shares the outrage felt by animal lovers over this alleged act of cruelty that, if true, sadly is not a criminal act in Nicaragua.

"The ASPCA is opposed to cruelty to animals of all types, in all societies," says ASPCA President Ed Sayres. "However, it is also not the policy of the ASPCA to condemn entire communities or countries for the cruel acts of individuals. What we need to do is step up our efforts to educate the public on the humane treatment of animals so that such events do not occur again."

Online activity regarding this incident has increased steadily over the last several weeks after many websites have reported that Vargas is planning to participate in the VI Central American Visual Arts Biennale later this year in Honduras.

While the ASPCA's programs are limited to the United States, we are a member and supporter of the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA). WSPA and member society the Honduras Association for the Protection of Animals and their Environment (AHPRA) have persuaded organizers of the Honduras Biennale to make AHPRA official exhibition observers. Additionally, although Vargas has stated that his exhibit will not feature a dog, the Biennale has agreed to codify rules prohibiting animal abuse. WSPA has also indicated to the ASPCA that it will increase efforts to enact stronger animal protection laws in Nicaragua.

The ASPCA asks supporters to advocate on behalf of animals through their own actions by supporting international, national and local animal welfare organizations, and by educating their own communities about how to detect and combat animal cruelty. To add your voice to the chorus of those working for the humane treatment of animals, please visit to take the ASPCA's Pledge to Fight Animal Cruelty.

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