Bret Collins was one of the many people who adopted one of the 40-plus dogs seized by the Santa Fe Sheriff’s Office because of what law enforcement called “unsanitary” living conditions on an Edgewood property.
At first, Collins said, the dog, now named Abbey Road, was skittish around Collins and his girlfriend, Nicole Lawe. But when the 25-pound canine started licking his hair, Collins knew he had started earning the dog’s trust.
“It’s like we’re part of her pack,” Collins said Monday in a phone interview.
Collins and Lawe adopted Abbey for their other dog, Penny, back in May when the first batch of dogs owned by ex-veterinarian Debra Clopton became available for adoption. He said he and his girlfriend had heard about the case, and they wanted to help the animals however they could.
“I felt bad,” Collins said. “No animal should be left in that condition.”
A grand jury has since indicted Clopton on three felony counts of possession of a dangerous drug, one misdemeanor count of practicing veterinary medicine without a license and 48 misdemeanor charges of animal cruelty. In connection to those charges, county deputies arrested Clopton on Friday. She was in jail for less than a day before she secured a $10,000 bond, and now awaits an arraignment hearing on Dec. 6 before state District Judge Mary Marlowe.
But Clopton entered the public’s eye when the sheriff’s office first found 48 dogs on Clopton’s property in early April after neighbors complained of constant barking. One person even reported seeing one dog kill another during a scuffle.
Those canines were relocated to the Santa Fe Animal Shelter & Humane Society.
The influx of canines initially flooded the humane society’s holding pens, and the shelter had to outsource some of the animals to the local dog daycare, Santa Fe Tails. Officials had to euthanize three dogs, and shelter staff later put down a few more because of health issues, shelter spokesman Ben Swan said.
But most of the dogs have since been adopted, including the 42 puppies born at the shelter between April and May.
As of November, Swan said only one of the original Edgewood 48 remain at the shelter, a canine named Angel, who is currently in foster care. He said the dog needs to spend more time with people before the shelter staff can put her up for adoption.
Additionally, Santa Fe Tails, a dog daycare, helped the shelter with a few of the dogs that needed more specialized care.
Joey Padilla, a co-owner of Tails, said the biggest challenge with the dogs from Edgewood was their fear of people. They didn’t socialize well, which turned off potential adopters who didn’t want a skittish dog.
“People can learn a lot from seeing dogs,” Padilla said. “These dogs were stressed, and they came out unsocialized and terrified. No dog should have to go through something like that.”
Regardless, Padilla said Tails staff was able to successfully find homes for 10 of the 12 dogs they received from the shelter.
The remaining two, Batman, a black-and-tan 40-pound dog, and Fiona, a white-and-brown-spotted 35-pound canine, are still available for adoption. Padilla said those who are patience would do well with the canines, and he said the animals do become more social after time.
“These guys deserve a good home,” Padilla said. “I don’t care how long it takes.”
Another one of the older dogs, Clifford, has found a permanent home at Kindred Spirits Animal Sanctuary. Ulla Pedersen, founder and director of the sanctuary, said Clifford, who is blind, has settled into his routine nicely. She said he likes being around the horses and other dogs at the sanctuary.
Housing the dogs, and previous charges
Clopton’s interaction with the Santa Fe animal shelter has been a long one. In April, the ex-veterinarian fought to keep custody of her animals, but she would have faced a $27,000 fee for 30 days of humane society care. Instead, Clopton tried to claim 10 canines, the amount allowed by a Santa Fe County ordinance.
Clopton then took out a $6,000 surety bond to pay for the time the animals spent in the humane society’s care, and she had to spend an additional $6,000 a month to cover the cost of care until the end of her criminal trial.
But in mid-September, Clopton failed to pay her bail and forfeited the 10 remaining dogs to the humane society.
Clopton also was briefly wanted on a bench warrant because she missed a hearing in early September, although the court later quashed that warrant. She also has been charged with animal cruelty in Bernalillo Magistrate Court, according to the New Mexico Courts online record system.
Contact Chris Quintana at 986-3093 or firstname.lastname@example.org.