Case Snapshot
Case ID: 18443
Classification: Hoarding
Animal: dog (non pit-bull), chicken, goat
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Friday, Apr 1, 2011

County: Luna

Disposition: Alleged

Alleged: Rogelio Rodriguez

A case against a Luna County resident involving over 70 counts of animal cruelty is awaiting trial. In the meantime, cases of animal abuse, neglect and abandonment continue to litter the county.

In April, the Luna County Sheriff's Office, Deming Animal Control and the New Mexico Livestock Board responded to a property at the 4800 block of Northwest Keeler Road. A local man, according to the LCSO report, was asked by Rogelio Rodriguez, 49, the subject of the 70-plus counts of animal cruelty, to watch and feed his animals for what was supposed to be a three-day period.

According to the report, the man charged with feeding and looking after the animals fed and watered the animals for as long as he could afford before calling the authorities. Rodriguez never returned.

Upon arrival at the scene, the LCSO report detailed numerous dogs and puppies "living in old vehicles" alongside dead dogs. The dogs were just the beginning of the hellish circumstances described in the report.

"Chickens are in the cages walking on dead chickens," the report detailed, saying those that were not deceased had no access to food nor water.

Investigators also found a group of goats, some dead, that also did not have access to food nor water. Graphic photos given to the Headlight show conditions akin to a junkyard with obviously malnourished animals cramped into tight living quarters, such as the covered bed of a pickup truck.

The findings were described as the "worst case" an award-winning New Mexico Livestock Board agent with over 15 year experience had seen.

The case is one of many this year, but most cannot be substantiated enough to make it to a criminal case. For example, the abandonment of horses in the desert has become a growing trend.

Local NMLB agent Janice Blandford, who has been recognized as a top state inspector, makes her living checking on the welfare of local horses, cattle, goats and other livestock. She says poor economic conditions are one likely factor in the upswing of abandonment and cruelty cases.

"They buy a horse and in six months they realize, oh my gosh, it costs a lot of money to keep this horse and instead of giving it away or hauling it to a sale barn in El Paso or Belen we don't have a sale barn and that has affected it they just stand "em up and don't feed "em," she said. "Then I get called in, or the Humane Society gets calls and they call me."

Help is literally just one call away for those who got over their head in animals. The Deming Animal Shelter, at (575) 546-2024 is a good resource, as shelter staff have contacts with the appropriate agencies. Blandford's office can be reached directly at (575) 544-7062 if you need help with an animal or want to make a report.

"Anything in very poor condition, has a body score of one or two, there's no water, no feed, we try to give them 90 days to comply, get a vet check," Blandford said as she presented a photo of an extremely malnourished horse found in the county. "A horse in that shape, it will take over 90 days to get him back in shape."

Agent Blandford and her son, Jack Blandford, who heads the Luna County Extension Office, say the cases have "at least" doubled within the past year. Jack Blandford, who has deep ties to the ranching and agriculture community in the county, also receives calls on a regular basis regarding cruelty or abandonment.

He points to the rising costs of feed as one contributing factor.

"You're going to end up paying about $240 a ton for premium alfalfa hay," he said, quoting the price during the time of the interview. "Three horses, that's a bale-a-day, at least, to maintain them."

The average two-strand bale of hay weighs between 65 to 70 pounds.

Another disturbing detail described by the officials might go unnoticed to those unfamiliar with wildlife. Jack Blandford described how the animals in the Rodriguez case were found to have lost the drinking habits of domesticated animals.

"They were actually watering like wildlife would," he said, detailing how wild animals typically drink until completely full, because they do not know when they will have water again. "You could tell the animals had gone a long time, whether it's two days or a week. They should have free choice of water, anytime."

After Agent Blandford described the relief that overcame one dog when the tightly-bound bailing wire usually made of nylon was cut from its neck, the group was asked how dealing with these cases changes their outlook on humanity.

She paused for a moment to reflect and simply replied: "They don't have any compassion anymore."

The fiery director of the animal shelter, Sande Foster, replied with a vengeful approach to justice.

"I'd like to put them in a cage and see how they like it," she said. "The biggest thing it does to me, I say not no, but hell no, I'm not going to quit fighting. We need to be out in the schools, we need public education, we need people to open their eyes and look so we find them before the cases get this severe.

The laws on on the side of protecting animals, they say, but without public education and watchful eyes, the problem will continue.

"The dogs that we were able to keep alive still have happy temperaments," she said, her point enforcing the old adage of canines being man's best friend. "One has already gone to a foster home and another gentleman has paid the full adoption fee on the other four, the fabulous four from the Keeler Farm Road."

The shelter is located at 2135 Oate Avenue SE in Deming's Industrial Park.

Animal Cruelty Contacts

Deming Animal Shelter - (575) 546-2024

New Mexico Livestock Board - (575) 544-7062

Luna County Central Dispatch (575) 546-0354


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