World Animal Day will be celebrated Tuesday in Venezuela with a march protesting the massive poisoning of stray dogs on Margarita Island and congratulating Health Minister Eugenia Sader, who announced sanctions on officials who ordered them put down, animal rights activista Cristina Camilloni said.

"I sincerely congratulate her and we hope that (her announcement of sanctions) will set a precedent so that such a thing never happens again," Camilloni, president of the Animal Defense Association, said on state television over the weekend.

Countless stray dogs were found dead on a number of beaches of the eastern Caribbean island of Margarita after eating food saturated with strychnine, the poison used by municipal and regional health officials, Camilloni said.

"What happened on Margarita was unjust - killing dogs so cruelly in a way no creature deserves...because they died burned up inside, floundering around in pain," which is the effect strychnine has, Camilloni said after attending a Mass in Caracas offered up as a blessing for pets.

The march this Tuesday will also demand campaigns for the sterilization of abandoned animals and the education of pet owners on how to stop the proliferation of stray dogs, as well as the abolition of bullfights, Camilloni said.

Sader said that both the Margarita municipality of Mariño and the state government of Nueva Esparta, whose jurisdiction includes the island, "will be sanctioned for wrongful application of the prophylactic measure."

Mariño City Hall intended to take action in suspected cases of canine rabies, supposedly dealing only with diseased animals, but did not comply with the regulations," Sader said, without specifying what sanctions will be imposed.

Mariño Mayor Alfredo Diaz said said that the elimination of stray dogs was planned by the Regional Zoonosis Coordination Committee, a unit of the Health Ministry's Regional Authority, and that employees under his supervision did no more that collect the bodies.

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