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Otero Co. deputies find hundreds of dogs in ‘deplorable’ conditions

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Otero County sheriff’s officers who responded to a domestic call at a Chaparral home Friday discovered a massive case of animal hoarding when more than 200 dogs were found in “deplorable” conditions, television station KVIA ABC-7 reported.

Deputies and animal rescue workers were still on the scene Monday removing and trying to save as many dogs as possible, KVIA said.

A volunteer told ABC-7 that the home was a well-known dog sanctuary called Mission Desert Hills Sanctuary for Dogs, a legally registered facility, but that conditions at the place were deplorable and that the dogs were, according to the volunteer, “living in hell.”

The initial call was a domestic violence report in which the homeowner, 44-year-old Feliz Moriel, allegedly beat and forced a 70-year-old woman to stay in the home and watch the dogs, KVIA said. Moriel was arrested and charged with battery and false imprisonment.

According to KTSM News Channel 9, Otero County Sheriff Benny House said deputies have been called to the property many times and that the property may have been “some sort of animal rescue” at one time.

Moriel also is facing charges of indecent exposure, interfering with communications and obstructing a police officer, according to News Channel 9.

KTSM reported that neighbors said while officials were seeking permission to enter the property, several dogs fought with each other, resulting in the death of several dogs.

The Alamogordo Daily News reported that Moriel was being held at the Otero County Detention Center on a $25,000 bond.

Sheriff House told the Daily News that Moriel assaulted the 70-year-old woman, whose name has not been released, after she tried to get his help in burying a dead dog.

“Upon arrival, deputies located the woman whose face and clothes were covered in blood,” House told the paper. “The woman also had dirt and scuff marks on her hands and legs … The woman had been at the suspect’s house to get help with burying her dog that recently died. The woman knew Moriel through the canine rescue that he ran at the residence.”

House also said the investigation revealed that Moriel had smashed the windshield of the woman’s vehicle when she ran away to get help, then started filling the woman’s vehicle with dog feces, according to the Daily News.