A veteran Portuguese bullfighter has been detained for questioning on suspicion of animal cruelty after several emaciated dogs were found on his property, police said Thursday.
Officers from a police animal protection unit detained a man on Wednesday at his farm in the southern town of Monforte and seized 18 greyhounds from the property which “showed signs of malnutrition”, a police spokeswoman said.
While she did not name the man, 59-year-old bullfighter Joao Moura himself confirmed that he had been questioned by police but denied mistreating his dogs.
It is now up to a court to decide if there is sufficient evidence to put him on trial for animal cruelty, which carries a prison sentence of up to two years, the police spokeswoman added.
“I have made my statement and I am home in peace and with a clear conscience,” Moura said in an interview with bullfighting news website Farpas.
“I did not kill anyone, I did not steal from anyone, I did not treat my dogs badly, some were thin but I did not treat them badly,” he said.
Maura has performed in arenas across Latina America as well as in Spain and Portugal in his decades-long career.
In 2013 his son Joao Moura Jr, who is also a bullfighter, sparked outrage after he posted pictures on his Facebook page of a pack of pit bulls attacking a calf at his farm.
He later took the images down and expressed remorse at having posted them on social media and said “most of all” he regretted “not being able to prevent” the attack by the dogs.
Unlike in Spain, bulls are not killed in the ring in Portugal, but are slaughtered out of sight afterwards.
The bull is jabbed with barbed sticks in the arena and taunted by “forcados” who try to grab it.
Though bullfighting events occasionally draw protesters, there are no widespread calls to ban the practice.