CHAPARRAL ANIMAL-RELOCATION PROJECT UNDERWAY TODAY

CHAPARRAL ANIMAL-RELOCATION PROJECT UNDERWAY TODAY

The Doña Ana County Sheriff's Department is working with animal shelters in Las Cruces, El Paso, Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Denver and Phoenix to relocate more than 100 animals housed at a makeshift shelter on the property of a Chaparral resident. All of the animals were found to have adequate shade, food and water.

Doña Ana County Sheriff Todd Garrison said the property owner, Louis C. Ashley, 70, is cooperating with authorities. Beginning at 5:30 a.m. today, more than 25 deputies, animal-control officers, a veterinarian, three veterinary technicians and several participating-shelter volunteers arrived with six trucks and two trailers to begin the evacuation process.

Ashley, a Catholic priest, had claimed he was running a state-sanctioned animal shelter. Sheriff’s investigators determined, however, that Ashley had registered the name of an animal shelter but had never recorded or received the proper permits for a shelter operation.

“What we’re dealing with today is a compassionate man to whom his community turned for animal-control,” said Doña Ana County spokesman Jess C. Williams. “Father Ashley did the best he could in a good-faith effort to care for the animals. We appreciate his good heart, but what we see here makes it clear that professionals must handle animal-care operations of this magnitude. It is beyond the capability of even the best-intentioned individuals. Today, we’re working with Father Ashley and our regional partners to look after the best interests of all the animals that can be saved.”

Participating animal shelters and Humane Societies include those from Las Cruces, El Paso, Denver, Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Phoenix.

Most of the dogs, as well as dozens of birds and several pack animals, are adoptable and will be shipped to regional animal shelters for placement efforts. More than 50 cats found on the premises were tested for feline leukemia. The tests were positive, and the cats will be destroyed.

Hundreds of adult, wild pigeons populating the area will also be destroyed. Several nests of baby pigeons have been found and will be saved for adoption. Ducks, geese and other birds will be relocated to waiting homes that already have been identified.

As of 8 a.m. today, the animal count stood as follows: 60+ dogs, 50+ cats, 11 geese, 8 ducks, 4 horses, 2 goats, 2 mules, 2 peacocks and a sheep. Ashley said he adopted out about 20 dogs over the Memorial Day weekend. Officials on the scene said the dogs were, for the most part, friendly and excited to see people.

The evacuation and relocation of the animals will continue through the day until completed. In exchange for cooperating with law-enforcement agents, Ashley faces no criminal charges. He also has agreed in writing to abide by Doña Ana County’s ordinance regarding responsible pet ownership, which will limit his future animal population to five dogs, one cat and some livestock, all of which must be kept in good condition.

The Doña Ana County Sheriff's Department will make periodic checks of the property to insure compliance with the agreement. Ashley could face criminal charges in the event he violates the agreement in the future.

***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

Reporters seeking more information or interviews may call county Public Information Director Jess Williams at (505) 525-5801.