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Ex-vet misses $6K animal care payment

SANTA FE, N.M. — Judge orders her away from dogs she’s accused of abusing

A former Edgewood veterinarian missed her $6,000 bond payment for 10 dogs being held for her at the Santa Fe Animal Shelter while animal cruelty charges are pending, according to a notice filed Thursday.

This came on the same day that Judge Sarah Singleton issued an order finding Debra Clopton in contempt of court and ordering her to remain outside the presence of those dogs until and if they are restored to her by the court.

It clarified that, while Clopton must pay for their medical care and may discuss it with the treating veterinarian, final approval of their medical care rests with the shelter – or, in the case of euthanization, with the court.

It’s not clear what steps come next after the missed bond payment, which the county’s filing said was due July 29. Shelter spokesman Ben Swan said he was told the dogs’ status on Thursday had not changed, although the notice filed by Rachel Brown, deputy county attorney, said in part, “Therefore, all dogs have been relinquished to Santa Fe County…”

Clopton’s attorney Arturo Nieto and Santa Fe County Attorney Steve Ross did not return calls from the Journal seeking clarification on Thursday.

Clopton had 48 dogs seized from her Edgewood home on April 1 after the animals allegedly were found in poor living conditions. She was charged with 48 counts of animal cruelty.

Since then, some of the animals have died and many more puppies were born. The shelter eventually was given authority over, and allowed to adopt out, all but 10 of the dogs, under the condition the Clopton continue to pay for their care while the cruelty charges are pending. The court set that cost at $6,000 per month.

Clopton ran afoul of the court last month when she took one of the dogs, Jazz, home with her while it was being kept at the Veterinary Care Referral Center in Albuquerque. According to background given in Singletons’ Thursday order, Clopton took Jazz home and kept it there from July 19 to July 24.

Singleton ruled that was a willful violation of previous orders and constituted contempt of court. The judge decided not to order jail time, but did issue further rules concerning the dogs.

She ordered that all 10 dogs being held for Clopton remain in Santa Fe County, whether at the shelter or at local veterinarians’ offices, and that the shelter retrieve Jazz from Albuquerque. Swan said that was happening Thursday, and that the dog would be taken to a Santa Fe veterinarian’s office.

The dog is suffering from arthritis and neurological problems, he said, and there is some question of whether it should be euthanized or kept under hospice care. “We want to do the best thing for the animal,” he said.

If the shelter seeks to euthanize it or another of Clopton’s dogs, it must take the matter to the district attorney, and the veterinarian making the recommendation must consult with Clopton, under Singleton’s order. “In no event will euthanasia be undertaken without court approval,” it adds.

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