A state Livestock Board inspector has been cleared of allegations that he failed to take action after being alerted on March 10 that four dying, downed horses at the Southwest Livestock Auction in Los Lunas needed immediate euthanization.
Inspector B.J. Winchester, however, was reprimanded for unprofessional conduct for how he dealt with representatives of the Maryland-based Animals’ Angels group.
They say he resisted their pleas to put the horses out of their misery and defended the horses’ owner.
“The facts don’t bear up any kind of a negligence issue there, so we put him back to work,” Livestock Board Executive Director Myles Culbertson said Thursday.
Winchester, who has worked as an inspector for about 10 years, was accused in a report released by Animals’ Angels of being “wantonly negligent in allowing the obvious suffering of the horses to continue until an auction employee volunteered to euthanize the suffering horses.”
Culbertson said the personnel investigation showed otherwise.
“A number of the people who were employees of that yard out there, they all had different recollections from their own perspective, but what was common and consistent was the inspector having said, “Deal with it. These horses need to be put down,” Culbertson said.
Animals’ Angels sent “inspectors” to the Los Lunas livestock auction after receiving complaints about the treatment of animals at the feedlot.
They videotaped the four downed, emaciated horses, one of which had an open, bleeding gash at the hipbone. Released on YouTube several weeks later, the graphic video spurred a separate animal cruelty investigation by the Livestock Board and provoked criticism and concern from people around the world.
The owner of the horse auction, Dennis V. Chavez, has not been charged. The investigation is continuing. He told the Journal last week that he expects to be vindicated by the investigation because he did nothing wrong.
Animals’ Angels alleged that after discovering the four downed horses, their “inspectors” went to the auction office for help and persuaded Winchester to see the animals himself.
On the way there, the report alleged, the livestock inspector “defiantly defended Dennis Chavez, “even stating that he would ‘rescue’ horses and that he was ‘giving them a chance to live.’ ” He also said he was not going to “push Dennis” to stop the nearby horse auction, the report stated.
“He made it very clear that he was not going to do anything right away” and at one point asked the welfare group’s investigators if they were “animal rights people.”
The report said an auction worker suddenly showed up and told the group that the horse with the open wound had been “down the night before. He also admitted that he had wanted to put the horse down in the early morning, but that there had just been ‘too much to do’ with the ongoing horse sale.”
The worker then shot three of the four horses; the fourth had already died.
Culbertson said Winchester wasn’t previously aware of the dying horses, because he was assigned to work the auction. The horses were being held in a lot separate from the auction area.
As for Winchester’s comments that day, Culbertson said, “We expect a high level of professionalism among our inspectors. I’m not saying he was abusive with them (but) that he got into a tangential, useless discussion with them.”
— This article appeared on page C1 of the Albuquerque Journal