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Employee faces charges after the death of 10 dogs in a sanctuary

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

A Deming man is charged with animal cruelty after 10 dogs under his care at an animal sanctuary died due to neglect.

Michael Muir, 63, is charged with 10 counts of cruelty to animals, a misdemeanor offense.

Muir was an employee of Ray’s Ruff Ruff Sanctuary and was tasked with caring for around 100 animals there.

According to the criminal complaint, a Luna County Sheriff’s deputy was dispatched to the sanctuary on southeast Rockhound Road in Deming on July 7.

There, the deputy made contact with sanctuary owner Raymond Schmal, who reported that 10 dogs had died due to Muir’s negligence.

Schmal told the deputy he was out of town when the animals died.

Monica Vasey, whose property is adjacent to the sanctuary, said she had spoken with Muir on a few occasions prior to the animals’ deaths and said he seemed “overwhelmed” by the job.

“The last phone call I got from Mike, I was very concerned about it,” she said.

That was June 25, and she said Muir told her then that he had found two dead dogs in a kennel and feared he would be blamed for their deaths.

According to court documents, Muir also called another man on June 25 to ask for help in dealing with the two carcasses. But in addition to the two dogs found in the trash, the man discovered the corpses of eight other dogs in kennels.

The two men then buried the dogs.

Schmal does not face any charges, but California records show he pleaded no contest to animal cruelty charges in Kern County in 2014, when 12 dogs and 40 cats were removed from his home due to inhumane conditions.

Two dogs died en route to a veterinarian and two had to be euthanized, according to the criminal complaint.

Schmal directed questions to his attorney, who did not return multiple requests for comment.

Capt. Michael Brown of the Luna County Sheriff’s Office has sought the advice of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, or ASPCA, since the incident. Brown said he is waiting on a report from the Deming-Luna County Humane Society, the nonprofit contracted for animal control services and which permitted Ruff Ruff.

“I know a lot of people are concerned,” said Humane Society board president Matt Robinson. “I understand why they’re concerned, but we’re just trying to do the right thing and go through the correct process.”

Dr. G. Clay Allred wrote to the Humane Society that while some of the dogs appeared “on the thinner side” and others had mange, all dogs looked to be in “decent to great shape.”

Around 75 dogs there were vaccinated by Allred, as well.

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