Animal welfare

Dog hoarding case raises questions about state’s animal welfare system

DES MOINES, NM — In a small town, news travels fast. And when it comes to extreme animal cruelty, it moves just as quickly through the New Mexico rescue system.

“They’ve been abandoned by the very people who were supposed to save them, and that’s what crushes me,” said Monica Eppinger, the founder of the Portales-based Labor of Love project.

She talks about Jessica Duncan, 19, and her boyfriend, Hayden Briesh, 21. They are charged with extreme animal cruelty after an investigation into the property where they were staying in Des Moines, New Mexico, in June. The young couple is still on the run today.

The Union County Sheriff’s Department confirmed that deputies found more than 100 dogs on the property, including more than 70 dead.

According to Eppinger, they were advertising a big dog rescue on social media. KOB was unable to find this Facebook page, but backhand images prove that the family members shared the same belief.

But it was not a rescue.

Deputies found small kennels in the property’s garage stacked three high, some with multiple dogs.

Many had passed the savings stage.

Briesh and Duncan signed custody of the dogs in the garage the night of the deputies’ response. They claimed they had a few other rescues and their own personal dogs in the house. But when deputies returned a day later with a search warrant…the couple were gone. And they left more than “a few dogs”.

“It’s bad. It’s like a chainsaw massacre, but with bad dogs,” said one deputy, after a quick search of the house.

They left that day and called the ASPCA to help the survivors.

The ASPCA took thirty dogs, a Colorado rescue took ten. Some of these dogs have since been adopted.

This case left a question that tore the New Mexico dog rescue network apart…how did the dogs keep ending up on this property?

“I’m angry, I’m hurt,” Monica Eppinger said. “There is no excuse as to why this should have happened.”

She says three dogs she rescued from Portales Animal Control somehow ended up there.

Eppinger explained that there is a process for some dogs…they will go from one rescue group to another before reaching their final destination. She thinks Jessica Duncan has broken that chain of trust between organizations more than once.

“She had no outlet. She had no financing plan. She had no partnership. She had no plan as to what she was going to do with this countless number of animals,” Eppinger said. “It was avoidable. That’s what kills me. It was so avoidable. »

Albuquerque-based NMDOG founder Angela Stell echoes that sentiment.

“If you can’t take the time to get to where you’re sending these dogs, then you don’t need to,” Stell said.

Stell was one of the first calls from deputies after their initial response, to see if she had room for her rescue.

“Many counties in New Mexico still don’t have animal protection and animal control departments. So it still falls in the lap of the sheriff’s department,” Stell said. Union County is one of them.

“Shooting as many animals, or saving as many animals as possible, that’s not what it’s about. It’s about quality of life, quality of placement, quality of their future,” Stell said.

If you see or know where these suspects might be, contact the Union County Sheriff’s Department.