On Monday, May 13, former veterinarian Debra Clopton appeared in court for the animal cruelty case that has caused dozens of the dogs taken from her Edgewood house in April to be packed inside the Santa Fe Animal Shelter.
The 48 dogs seized from her home on April 1 as part of an animal-cruelty investigation have now grown to a total number of 78, because some have had litters of pups at the shelter, reported KRQE.
On April 1, former Veterinarian, Debra Clopton, whose license was suspended a year ago, was arrested in her rented Edgewood, New Mexico, house on drug charges and the possibility of 48 counts of animal cruelty.
Law enforcement officers obtained a search warrant and raided the home, where they found forty-eight dogs of various ages and conditions. Many seized were ill or had neurological disorders. All of the dogs were taken to the Santa Fe Animal Shelter.
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Santa Fe County Sheriff's deputies served a warrant at Debra Clopton's house, allowing investigators to seize animals and anything that could be used to practice veterinary medicine, after a month-long investigation. They were assisted by Doña Ana County Animal Cruelty Task Force, according to KRQE.
Deputies say Clopton's veterinary license was revoked a year ago; however, she had Euthanol Euthanasia, a Schedule III controlled substance, in her possession, which also resulted in drug-related charges.
Clopton had already been convicted of having too many dogs at her Rio Rancho home. More animals were found inside that home, which she had vacated, a couple of weeks ago.
According to the criminal complaint, veterinary records, receipts and billing information were all found inside Clopton's home. Lt. William Pacheco with the Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office said. "Articles and items that we located in the residence gives us belief that she is still practicing veterinary medicine within that residence."
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On April 10 KRQE reported that an emergency hearing would be held in District Court and a judge would decide if Clopton will pay back the county for housing the seized dogs.
The drug charges were dismissed in Magistrate Court, but the District Attorney is in the process of testing the drugs and refiling those charges in District Court, authorities say.
Officials reported Clopton's foreclosed home in Rio Rancho as filthy and occupied by cats, which were left behind.
At the emergency hearing on Monday, Santa Fe District Court judge decided Clopton can reclaim some of those dogs, but she'll have to pay for their care, as well as owing the Santa Fe Shelter for boarding and the extensive medical care many of the other animals have needed. Three of the dogs had to be euthanized because they were suffering and there was no way to reverse their condition.
The judge allowed Clopton to make a partial payment of $6,240 and she cleared the way for the remainder of the dogs to be adopted out by the shelter, according to KRQE.
The judge determined that she would be able to keep ten dogs, which is the legal limit, depending on the outcome of the criminal charges against her. She has two weeks to get current on the bill that keeps growing. If she fails to pay for the continuing upkeep of the dogs she hopes to keep, they too will be placed for adoption, KRQE reported.
Shelter officials told KRQE they are awaiting on official word from the County that the dogs Clopton does not want are legally transferred to their custody. Each will have to be spayed and neutered before adoption.
Her attorney said he plans to fight the animal cruelty charges. If convicted on all counts, Clopton faces almost 48 years in prison.