Thirty-two Chihuahuas, survivors of a late-night vehicle collision in Guadalupe County, are ready for their next step to a better life.
East Mountain Companion Animal Project, a Moriarty animal rescue operation, is holding an adoption event for the dogs from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday at Woof Gang Bakery & Grooming, 9780 Coors NW, Suite F.
The dogs are among more than 60 recovered from a Chevrolet Astro van that crashed head on with a tractor-trailer rig at 12:45 a.m. Jan. 3 on U.S. 54 near Vaughn.
Eighteen of the dogs in the van were adopted out by EMCAP during a Jan. 15 event.
Keenan Foster, an EMCAP director, said the Chihuahuas up for adoption on Sunday are dogs that were experiencing health issues just after the accident, dogs that were pregnant then and Chihuahuas born since the collision.
“These are the moms, all the babies born and dogs we needed to get healthy enough for adopting,” Foster said. “They have been vaccinated and those that are old enough have been spayed or neutered.” He said there are 18 puppies available for adoption this time around.
Based on the Jan. 15 adoption program, which drew more than 60 persons, Foster said he expects people to start lining up 90 minutes prior to the start of Sunday’s event.
Asleep at the wheel
According to the New Mexico State Police accident report, the van carrying the Chihuahuas was driven by Missael Rodelo, 40, whose city of residence is listed as El Paso. Rodelo’s phone number, as noted on the accident report, has an area code for southwest Missouri, a section of the state that includes the town of Branson.
There were four passengers in the van, including Rodelo’s wife and the couple’s 4-year-old son, a 28-year-old woman and her 9-year-old daughter.
The tractor-trailer rig was driven by a 41-year-old man. A 21-year-old man was a passenger in the rig.
Based on evidence and statements, the investigating State Police officer determined that Rodelo was at fault for falling asleep at the wheel, failing to maintain his lane and driving into oncoming traffic. He was cited for failure to maintain his lane and for not having insurance.
The Journal called the 4th Judicial District Court to inquire about the status of Rodelo’s case, but had not received that information by deadline.
According to the accident report, Rodelo and his wife, who was in the van’s front passenger seat, were the most seriously injured. The report said Rodelo had a broken left femur and that the vehicle’s emergency brake had pierced a muscle in the lower part of one of his legs. It was suspected that Rodelo’s wife might have a broken left leg.
The State Police investigation focused on the accident, not the dogs. But the accident report does note that during a Jan. 6 interview, Rodelo told the State Police investigator that the dogs were rescue animals and were being taken to a shelter in Juarez, Mexico.
The van, with the Chihuahuas still in it, was towed to the Santa Rosa dog kennel in the early morning hours of Jan. 3. Santa Rosa Mayor Nelson Harrison Kotiar said city employees found 82 dogs — 64 living and 18 dead — in the van. Christy Trujillo, Santa Rosa animal control director, was able to secure a paper, signed by one of the van’s passengers, releasing the dogs to Santa Rosa.
Seeking help with the dogs, too numerous to be cared for in the city kennel, Santa Rosa reached out to area animal shelters and rescue operations. All of the surviving dogs were placed in shelters or foster homes. EMCAP took 48 of the Chihuahuas.
Foster said some of the dogs in EMCAP’s care were adopted out after the organization’s January event.
In January, Mayor Kotiar said it was feared there may have been more than 100 dogs in the van, that perhaps more than 20 Chihuahuas had escaped the accident scene and might be exposed to the elements and predators.
But to date, only a few Chihuahuas have been found running free. Within a week of the accident, it was reported that ranchers in the Vaughn area had found and rescued two Chihuahuas and that a motorist from Illinois, traveling on U.S. 54 north of Vaughn, found another and took it to the Santa Rosa Police Department. The latter was adopted by area residents.
Foster said a fourth Chihuahua, malnourished and pregnant, was found in February. He said EMCAP took that dog in and is caring for her until she and her puppies are ready for adoption.