Valencia County petitions court to take ownership of dozens of animals

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Valencia County Animal Control wants ownership of some 33 animals that officials say were neglected and abused.

On March 11, Valencia County Animal Control filed a petition to take ownership of the animals so that they can be adopted out to caring families or humanely be put to sleep.

Tammy Lopez, an El Cerro Mission resident, had the animals taken away in October 2012 due to suspicion of animal cruelty and abuse. Officials claimed the animals were kept without adequate food, water and shelter necessary to sustain their health.

The petition was filed by Erik Tanner, director of Valencia County Animal Control.

The petition needs to be granted before Valencia County can adopt out the animals or humanely put them to sleep.

Lopez's 31 dogs, one cat and one rooster are at the shelter.

In October 2012, Lopez pleaded not guilty to 98 counts related to animal cruelty, including allegations the animals weren't properly vaccinated for rabies. Lopez was involved in a similar magistrate court case in February 2012, where she pleaded not guilty to animal cruelty charges, according to court records.

The charges were dismissed in magistrate court, but were refiled in district court earlier this month.

Tanner said the woman exceeded the allowed amount of dogs by 20 when officials served the warrant on October 2012.

Several dogs, loose and tied up, were jumping and lunging at animal control officers as they conducted their investigation at the home on Winston Drive.

Lopez was allegedly seen pointing and yelling as deputies stood with her outside the fenced-in property.

Animal shelter trucks moved from one end of the property to the other during an almost three-hour process where officials removed the animals.

Tanner said the animals were malnourished and dehydrated and he said some were "beyond thin," due to constant neglect.

He said animal control officers have had encounters with the woman in the past and tried to educate her "half a dozen" times, but he said the requests were ignored.

Tanner said Lopez needed to reduce the number of animals on her property and to make sure the animals received more food and water. He said the woman was permitted to have 12 dogs on her property, according to a county ordinance.

There were several types of dogs, including pit bulls, chihuahuas and healers.

Tanner said Lopez claimed her home was similar to a rescue center and that she was saving them. There were no dead animals on the property at the time when officials served the search warrant.

Tanner said the majority of the dogs are doing well physically at the county animal shelter, but mentally, "they're caring a lot of baggage."

Tanner said he is looking at placing the animals with rescue groups who are able to treat the dogs' aggression, especially during feeding time.

A hearing date regarding the petition has not yet been set before District Judge Violet Otero.


-- Email the author at bruffner@news-bulletin.com.