MAKING the PERPETRATORS PAY
So, we posted the information about our hearing tomorrow, after four months of fighting for what we are entitled to, as citizens of New Mexico- the truth about what happened at the puppy mills from which we effected the rescues of 74 living, neglected dogs, 2 Siamese cats, and a piss-poor looking parrot living in a broken-down, filthy cage. We walked among dead bodies, rats, feces, dogs fighting over body parts, and tried to save a dying dog, slit open from stem to stern.
We shied back from dogs who were losing their minds, kept in small crates, and living on their own waste, being fed and given water through the bars of those crates. And we watched as the breeder controlled the fighting dogs with cattle prods. We tried to help a mother dog with burn marks on her chest, from whom newborn puppies had already been taken and given to another mother- a few feet from her litter. When we met her, she wanted to kill any human daring to come close and take another of her babies.
Eventually, we felt that somehow, we were entitled to the information that led to these situations, who had allowed these dogs to become ill, blind, wounded, neglected, filthy, and to obtain and the records that would help us to identify ages and vaccination records for these animals. We wanted to know who had been responsible, who allowed these precious companion animals to live in these conditions for years, despite numerous and passionate complaints by responsible neighbors, and members of the Neighborhood Watch on Starfly Lane near the Old English Bulldog puppy mill.
We wanted to know why code enforcement hadn't shut this nightmare down, had the complaints we knew had been made, truly resulted in visits from Sheriffs' deputies, and Animal Control officers, for years? We were shown by the breeder where the only working electricity was, and the several extension cords plugged into that one unit. Did the neighbors know what a firetrap they lived next to, and oh my God- what would have happened to the caged, mentally crazed dogs, caged and unable to get out? Were there really domestic violence calls and theft and burglary and fraud complaints, and if answered, did those representatives of Dona Ana County REALLY ignore what they saw?
We wanted to know how a 93-year old woman, bedridden and unable to pull a blanket to her chin while she thought she was freezing in 105 degree weather, came to live among the horrific odors and filth of animal waste from approximately 50 dogs. We wanted to know why these little Pomeranian-Chihuahua dogs were living in filth, in a decrepit trailer long since devoid of most of it's carpet and tile, because of the accumulation of animal waste, some piles more than a foot wide, and a foot high.
So today, I posted the information about our upcoming hearing, scheduled tomorrow, April 7th, 9:00 a.m, in Judge Mary Rosner's courtroom, District Court 3, Las Cruces. Judge Rosner will decide whether to schedule a hearing on our writ of mandamus, regarding our allegations of violations of the Open Government Act, resulting from our IPRA requests, filed November 1, 2015.
And one of the first questions was, 'Are the Perpetrators Going to Pay?'
That would be nice, but for now, we are suing the Dona Ana County for not turning over the information requested through the Open Government Act November 1, 2015. These requests are routinely handled per the Act within 21 days maximum. Many agencies aim and reach completion of a request in 3 days. In this situation, it's been four months.
We've gotten 3 separate packets, none with the complete information we know exists, or even the rest of the information their own documents allude to- so we know they exist. It's been frustrating and mind-numbing and exhausting and we've put in more than 200 hours, as our primary goal was to do this ourselves, without taking money away from the animals.
Eventually, as things became more complicated having to file in District Court, we were blessed to be offered the services of a top-notch, caring attorney, Peter Goodman! Mr. Goodman also writes for the Las Cruces Sun News, and is an articulate, genuine, gracious man who loves animals, and loves to make wrongs right. Thanks to the intercession of the amazing Susan Boe, director of the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government (who thought we had a very very good case) Peter Goodman took a look at our case right way. He agreed that this was an incredible situation that needed to be heard in court, and took our case pro bono- so our initial goal was met also- nothing came from donations for the care of the animals.
Tomorrow won't be the really really interesting one, but if I lived there in Dona Ana County, I'd want to see what happens. Will a hearing be scheduled to hear this case in detail? That's one question. Will the county be forced to turn over the documents they have not provided? That's another important question. Will sanctions be levied for the inordinate time needed- more than 200 hours spent, and the costs of our efforts to date? That’s another very good question.
Dona Ana County has been sued for violations of this law before, as recently as last year by the Sheriff of Dona Ana County. They’ve also been sued for violations by the Las Cruces Sun (http://lawschool.unm.edu/news/archives/2010/june/Cox_v_Public%20Safety/Cox_Appellant_Brief_in_Chief.PDF)..
Perhaps DAC didn’t take it very seriously, because, here we are. The Animal Services Center of Mesilla Valley was sued for this very issue, refusing to turn over documents about animals. They also paid attorneys’ fees. Still, it happens!
In this state where poverty ranks #1 in the nation, #1 worst in child care, animal abuse at the top levels, unemployment the highest in the U.S., NM ranked the 'worst managed' state, highest burglary rates, #2 in rape, and again, among the bottom in education.
So maybe this is a good question, also. IS there transparency in New Mexico's government? If there isn’t, will there EVER be an improvement in what is obviously wrong in this state? New Mexico is a beautiful place to live, but when businesses looking for a new headquarters do their research…what do you think THEY believe about viability of a move to the ‘Land of Enchantment?’
Tomorrow will be a good indicator, as far as I’m concerned. Because if it’s this hard to get information about a DOG operation…what’s being hidden from public view about murders, assaults, child care and elder abuse? Who is in jail who shouldn’t be? Who isn’t who should be?
What’s the TRUTH about what is happening here, and why we are having to fight, to help these dogs, and learn the truth about why these puppy mills were allowed to operate, year after year, and why these dogs were allowed to suffer, and the neighbors made to live in fear?
I think that tomorrow’s hearing will prove to be illuminating, whatever happens.
Sunny Aris, Director, Animal Village NM
See links below regarding the statistics referenced in this post.