Case Snapshot
Case ID: 19526
Classification: Neglect / Abandonment
More cases in Valencia County, NM
More cases in NM
Login to Watch this Case

New features are coming soon. Login with Facebook to get an early start and help us test them out!

Images for this Case

For more information about the Interactive Animal Cruelty Maps, see the map notes.

Saturday, Mar 10, 2012

County: Valencia

Disposition: Not Charged
Case Images: 9 files available

Person of Interest: Dennis Chavez

Undercover investigators have exposed the shocking neglect of horses at a U.S. livestock auction house, releasing harrowing footage of four animals in the throes of a slow and undignified death.

Despite the activists' pleas for the horses to be euthanized, a state inspector who was present at the sale earlier this month seemed reluctant to end their suffering.

The video below was filmed in a large pen at Dennis Chavez's Southwest Livestock Auction and Feedlot, in Los Lunas, New Mexico.

The emaciated horses are seen slumped on the dirt, their bones protruding and eyes glazed as they struggle to stand.

They can barely muster the strength to lift their heads - one mare even carries an open wound on her hip, her hair streaked with blood.

Another - a palomino - is shown in a similarly dire condition, her legs entangled in orange twine, while a second grey mare appears to have been thrashing for long enough to have scraped deep ruts in the ground, her tongue lolling out of her mouth.

One of the four took her last breath while the campaigners were still on site.

Animals' Angels, the group behind the investigation, said it was compelled to step in after it received a high number of complaints from residents at Los Lunas, 25 miles south of the city of Albuquerque.

Owner Mr Chavez is said to be a 'kill buyer', a term used for dealers who trade livestock primarily for slaughter.

The animal rights group claims his auction house shipped more than 10,000 horses to be killed last year.

Sonja Meadows, executive director of Animals' Angels, said that in addition to the four seen on film, there were hundreds of malnourished horses in the auctioneer's pens. Many of them were sick or bleeding, she said, describing them as 'walking death'.

One was said to have teeth so overgrown there was no conceivable way it could have eaten.

Investigators said that, of about 700 horses that they saw on the site, most of them would have had body condition scores well below two on a widely observed scale of zero to five. Scores of zero and one are used to describe 'emaciated' and 'very thin' animals.

Having seen the distressing images, the New Mexico Livestock Board has now launched a full investigation of its own. It plans to release the results of the probe next month and has suggested the horses were already dying when they arrived at the lot.

This is believed to be the first time Southwest Livestock has been investigated by the state board, but there have been previous complaints filed with the United States Department of Agriculture.

Meanwhile, the inspector who was present on the day the video was shot is reported to have been put on paid leave pending the outcome of the state's investigation.

A vet is also said to have been on hand.

The inspector, named as BJ Winchester, is seen on camera talking to the activists after they asked him to take a look at the sickest horses.

The clip, released as Animals' Angels pushes for cruelty charges to be brought against Mr Chavez, suggests the inspector was reluctant to give the order for the horses to be killed humanely.

There is no sound accompanying the video, but subtitles suggest he told the investigators: 'I'm not gonna push him [Dennis Chavez] to drop his sale and take care of these horses.

'We know about these horses, we bring them in here... and some are not gonna have a chance to live.'

After the investigators insisted that the horses had to be euthanized at once, Mr Winchester is said to have responded: 'I am sorry to tell you that, but nothing will be done right away.'

The video claims the inspector then backtracked after an auction worker appeared and offered to have the horses put down.

After Albuquerque news channel KOB confronted Mr Chavez with the images, he responded: 'Well, I understand these pictures look real bad but it's not as bad as you think.'

'Some of these horses they come in like this in this situation and I do the best I can to try and revive them, but you can't salvage them all - some things you can't do to make things better.'

He declined to comment on why the horses in the video had not been euthanized sooner.

Warning, Video is Graphic:


« More cases in Valencia County, NM

Note: Classifications and other fields should not be used to determine what specific charges the suspect is facing or was convicted of - they are for research and statistical purposes only. The case report and subsequent updates outline the specific charges. Charges referenced in the original case report may be modified throughout the course of the investigation or trial, so case updates, when available, should always be considered the most accurate reflection of charges.

For more information regarding classifications and usage of this database, please visit the database notes and disclaimer.