The allegations against 39-year-old Adam “Rick” Sanchez are revolting.
The southwest Albuquerque man – who admits that he’s been performing medical procedures on all animals for more than 20 years despite having no training – has been criminally charged with eight counts of extreme cruelty to animals, three counts of cruelty to animals, two counts of possession of a controlled substance and fraud.
Authorities say a woman who believed Sanchez to be a licensed veterinary technician took several of her Cane Corso puppies to Sanchez so he could crop their ears. After paying him $800, she picked the puppies up at the man’s home around 1 a.m. and discovered that one of the puppies was “stiff and cold to the touch” and had been dead for a while. She took the surviving puppies to a licensed veterinarian and was informed that three of them had neurological damage affecting their gait and mannerisms due to the procedure and medications used during it.
For the woman who lived through this sad ordeal – and all other pet owners – there’s a lesson to be learned from this episode. The lesson is that if you’re looking to get quality veterinary care for your pet, you probably shouldn’t be knocking on some random stranger’s door. Particularly when that stranger instructs you to come back for your puppies at 1 a.m., demands cash and refuses to give you a receipt.
That may seem harsh, but when you decide to take on a pet – or eight – you have a responsibility to treat them well and to get them the quality care they need.
As for Sanchez, the district attorney’s office owes it to this community to throw the book at him. There’s convincing evidence – tools, drugs and blood – that he was operating a makeshift veterinary clinic out of his home, and one wonders how many other helpless animals suffered at his hands. In this case, deputies found “nine pairs of puppy ears in a trash can.” They also found Sanchez’s three dogs ill and in “inhumane conditions,” and confiscated them.
Sanchez needs to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and, if he’s found guilty, the DA’s office should request the harshest sentence possible.
Unfortunately, prosecutors in New Mexico have often faced an uphill battle with these types of cases because the law isn’t as clear as it should be. Animal Protection Voters has pushed lawmakers in Santa Fe to strengthen it and to clarify what really falls under the extreme cruelty category, but lobbyists have ensured those efforts have gone nowhere.
And that leaves New Mexico as a state where an untrained someone can administer God knows what kind of drug to a living thing, then mutilate it to the point of crippling damage or death.
As the Sanchez case shows, very bad things happen when amateurs decide to start playing veterinarian to make a buck off the books. Amateurs shouldn’t be allowed to crop ears, dock tails or castrate dogs and cats. Period.
If Sanchez walks, there’s a good chance it will be because lawmakers failed to strengthen our state’s animal cruelty law, a law intended to safeguard animals that we humans are entrusted with caring for. Four puppies show it’s time for them to step up and fix it.
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.