Animal cruelty charges being investigated

A De Baca County rancher could be charged with one or more counts of animal cruelty and have his cattle seized, according to 10th Judicial District Attorney Tim Rose.

Rose said on May 17, members of the New Mexico Livestock Board, two veterinarians and himself searched the De Baca County rancher's property, inspecting about 500 to 600 cattle that were in poor condition due to malnutrition. Rose said they have reason to believe there could be more than 1,200 head of cattle on this rancher's property.

Rose said the case is still under investigation, and he expects charges to be filed within the next couple of days and hopes to have a petition for seizure in court as soon as possible.

If the cattle are to be seized, Rose said the operation would be expensive and precarious, and take about 10 days. He said the size of the ranch, about 128,000 acres, would make it difficult to bring in all the cattle that are not corralled, and in the summer heat, seizing the cattle could put a strain on the already malnourished cattle and possibly result in death.

Portable corral panels, feed, trucks to load up cattle, and local cowboys to round up the cattle are a few of the expenses Rose said were needed for a seizure operation. He said contracts will have to be made with neighboring ranches or feedlots in Fort Sumner, Clovis and Roswell so the cattle have a place to stay.

"Obviously my office and the livestock board doesn't have that kind of money. It would have to come from the state." Rose said he will ask the governor for an emergency funds transfer to finance the seizure.

Within 30 days after the seizure there will be a disposition hearing where both sides present evidence, and the judge will decide whether the cattle will be returned to the owner, or if they will be sold, according to Rose.

He said if the judges ruling is to sell the cattle, the money will be used to reimburse law enforcement agencies for the money they used during the seizure; any leftover money would be returned to the cattle's original owner.

According, to Rose the livestock board received a tip about the conditions of the cattle. The livestock board then visited with the rancher and submitted an affidavit based on their observations.

The livestock board obtained a search warrant based off the affidavit.

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