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Wanted: a law-abiding home

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

The Chihuahua named Amanda was advertised in these 2012 photos from Quixote Humane, a Valencia County animal rescue. She was adopted by Susan and William Harris, who took the dog with them while on the lam. (Courtesy of Rick Babcock)

Amanda, the unwitting crime-fighting Chihuahua who helped U.S. marshals in the capture of her fugitive owners, Susan and William Harris, is herself behind bars.

Her captivity at the Shawnee, Oklahoma, animal shelter is predicted to be short. The Harris couple, meanwhile, are expected to be locked up for years after failing to appear for sentencing March 2 for their roles in the $11 million embezzlement at the now-closed Ayudando Guardians Inc. of New Mexico.

The couple fled New Mexico, with 10-year-old Amanda in tow, and were on the run for six weeks before their arrest by a Marshals’ task force April 15 in Shawnee, a small city 40 miles east of Oklahoma City.

Their dog’s ID and whereabouts were confirmed Tuesday after the Chihuahua’s microchip was traced to the now-closed Quixote Humane of Bosque Farms, founded by Judy Babcock, a prominent Valencia County animal advocate who died in October.

Babcock’s husband, Rick, told the Journal on Tuesday that he received a call from the microchip company and searched his wife’s old spreadsheets from the rescue organization. He discovered the chip number belonged to a Chihuahua named Amanda, who was adopted in 2012 by “a Bill and Susan Harris.”

“I said, ‘That’s interesting.’ Well, it didn’t click right away, so I just searched on ‘Bill and Susan Harris’ (online) and, of course, what came up was all the news articles about our notorious embezzlers.”

Babcock also had read last week’s Journal story about the Chihuahua, which led law enforcement agents to the apartment where Harris was staying with her husband.

Agents who had tracked the couple to the vicinity happened to see the Chihuahua coming out the front door of an apartment, unaccompanied, to do her business. Dutifully, the little 5-pound dog headed back inside.

A Marshals Service spokesman told the Journal that seeing the dog, which turned out to be Amanda, persuaded them to approach the apartment where the Harris couple was later arrested.

Investigators wondered whether they took their dog with them after finding photos of a Chihuahua during a search of the Harris home after the couple left town.

Federal court records show that 73-year-old Susan Harris, former Ayudando president, is facing a minimum sentence of 30 years to life in prison. Her husband, 58, was expected to be sentenced to seven years under his plea deal but may end up with a longer sentence for absconding. Both had been released pending sentencing.

They and two others who worked at the company, which handled finances and investments for more than 1,000 vulnerable clients, were accused of stealing client money to support a “lavish lifestyle” dating back to at least 2010.

Babcock said his wife, who served on the New Mexico Animal Sheltering Board and the Valencia County Animal Control Advisory Board, was conscientious about vetting prospective owners and making sure those animals she adopted out were kept safe.

“Her philosophy was that she didn’t know what would happen with the owners because they might give the dog away or move away, or whatever. At least her organization’s name was always listed with the chip so she could track down the owners.”

Shawnee shelter officials confirmed Amanda was in good shape after being dropped off by U.S. marshals, Babcock told the Journal.

“They said small dogs typically get adopted out fairly quickly in Shawnee,” Babcock said.

Before her adoption, Quixote Humane described Amanda as a “delightful little angel” who would “probably be happiest in a home that is not highly active, but has a lap or two for snuggling.”

“We do have the pup,” said a Shawnee Police Department spokeswoman who fielded media calls for the shelter on Tuesday. But before putting her up for adoption, the shelter will wait to see “if any family members would want to come get her.”

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