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Dog breeder suing over cruelty charges

A Capitan dog breeder, who faced charges of animal cruelty that were later dismissed, has filed suit against the law enforcement agencies and others involved in the case.

Attorney Freda Howard McSwane filed the lawsuit in District Court in Las Cruces this week, claiming damages caused to Irene Howcroft’s Belgian Malinois dog breeding and training business by the Capitan Police Department, Police Chief Randy Spear and officer Kevin Kennedy, the Doña Ana Sheriff’s Department, two former employees and two individuals who posted negative comments on the Internet.

District Judge James Counts had dismissed charges of animal cruelty, trafficking in a controlled substances, tampering with evidence, conspiracy, theft of identity and theft of a credit card in February after ruling that Spear was outside his jurisdiction when he obtained a search warrant for Howcroft’s kennel in November 2011. Counts ruled that because Spear was outside his jurisdiction, any evidence seized was not admissible in court.

Spear testified that he had responded to a report of a horse pushing a fence down on Nov. 16, 2011, and “… then my ear got full of everything that was going on out at Ms. Howcroft’s place by Julie Bentley, who was working there.”

According to the lawsuit, Bentley was responsible for feeding and medicating the dogs Spear testified she complained to him about. Howcroft, the kennel owner, was in Santa Fe in November 2011 working on a contract with the New Mexico Department of Corrections. Bentley had told Spear there was no food for the dogs but, according to the lawsuit, Howcroft had given Bentley $1,200 to purchase dog food.

Spear contacted the Doña Ana Sheriff’s Department for assistance in the investigation.

“Those guys were a tremendous help,” Spear said at the time charges were filed regarding the deputies from Doña Ana County who specialize in animal abuse cases. “They really know their stuff.”

Both Doña Ana County and the sheriff’s department are named in the lawsuit for the assistance Doña Ana County deputies provided to Spear.

Three individuals, Mike Bullock, Bill Creasey and Donna Carmichael are named in the suit for allegedly spreading false information about Howcroft.

The suit claims libel, slander and defamation, intentional interference with prospective contractual relations, trespassing by Capitan and Doña Ana law enforcement and malicious prosecution.

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