The New Mexico State Attorney and the Humane Society of the United States are
rescuing dozens of dogs and more than 10 puppies from an alleged cruelty situation in San Miguel County, New Mexico. The San Miguel County Sheriff’s Office is also providing assistance on-scene.

Local authorities served a search-and-seizure warrant on a residential property at approximately 8 a.m. on March 14. The dogs were found living outdoors in crowded, filthy pens, some with no apparent access to food or water. Rescuers worked cautiously in freezing temperatures to avoid slipping on ice and other hazards such as broken glass, wires and other debris found throughout the areas the dogs were living in.

The dogs were unaltered and apparently permitted to breed freely — veterinarians noted that several dogs are pregnant. One puppy was found dead in one of the pens as an adult dog, possibly the mother, paced and whined nearby. Some of the dogs hid behind pieces of plywood and in various makeshift structures, while others appeared curious and approached rescuers.

As someone that works at an animal shelter, I certainly feel as though stories like these are on the rise. But, as with many statistics in our industry, you must take a deeper dive into the data to really understand what is going on. Locally we had one of our most serious animal cruelty investigations culminate in September 2021. Back then, 46 animals were seized and 100 prescription medications were taken as well as $20,000 in cash from a Flagler County animal rescue group.

And just last month we took in five dogs from a hoarding situation in Santa Rosa County. In both these cases, well-meaning rescue groups wanting to do as much good as possible soon become overwhelmed and didn’t know how to seek relief from the circumstances they created. Just as we saw shelter animal intakes significantly decrease between 2013-2018, we had to admit and point out that our years of low-cost spay and neuter surgeries and humane education were paying off.

But, as I asked before, are more animals being abused today or is there something else going on we might not see? And although I did not take the time to really look at the numbers today, I would argue that the answer is no. It’s not the number of abused animals that has increased, but that animal cruelty investigations and officers have gotten better. Not only that, agencies that fight animal cruelty are working together more and more and recognizing that collaboration can end up being a necessary factor that can determine our success or failure.

Jeffery Ritter is Director of Development at Flagler Humane Society and can be reached at Flagler Humane Society is a 501(c)(3) not-for- profit organization founded in 1980. For more information go to