Shelter Pet Abuse and Cowards In Taos County, NM

In New Mexico, the city of Taos as well as the county of Taos pay a group called Stray Hearts more than $230,000 a year to perform animal control duties. Stray Hearts hired veterinarian Eugene Aversa to work at the facility in November 2013, providing medical care to the animals. He resigned last month, after a complaint made by shelter volunteers and staff led to a hearing before the New Mexico Board of Veterinary Medicine, the findings of which were damning:

Eugene Aversa was found to have violated state codes in his treatment of or failure to treat 18 animals.
In its order, the seven-member board suggested Aversa was not qualified to work as a veterinarian at Stray Hearts. The order said Aversa “did not exercise the same degree of care, skill and diligence that reasonably prudent New Mexico veterinarians would have employed” in several cases. The doctor’s care for some animals was found to have constituted “gross negligence,” including in the case of a dog with a fractured paw which eventually fell off, a dog with cancer and a cat with a fractured paw as well as exposed bone.

Details of individual animals forced to suffer under Aversa’s “care” are disturbing to read.

A cat named Taffy was being given fluids by Aversa when the needle slipped out from under Taffy’s skin and the fluids spray Aversa in the face. The state report indicates Aversa threw Taffy to the floor in response. A worker found Taffy dead in her cage the next day, “with blood everywhere.”

A dog named Petey came to the pound in March 2014 with a fractured paw and Aversa left him to suffer until late July when he finally performed surgery on the dog. The state report says Aversa subsequently refused to change Petey’s bandages regularly and his paw eventually “fell off.”

Felicia Valencia, who assisted Aversa during procedures, says it took 90 minutes for a kitten to die after being “euthanized” by Aversa, and that the kitten’s suffering was only ended when Aversa finally jabbed a needle in the pet’s heart.

Ms. Valencia says when she spoke up about the abuse she witnessed, the shelter administration fired her.  Several Stray Hearts board members have resigned this year and the director recently quit.  Aversa’s malpractice and the shelter administration’s failure to take action to stop it has obviously taken a toll.  Still, the administrators appear to be trying to sweep the whole thing under the rug:

 Asked whether Aversa had been qualified to work at the shelter, the nonprofit’s chair said Tuesday she was “not qualified to comment on the veterinarian’s qualifications.”

Yeah, that’s not the only thing the administrators for Stray Hearts aren’t qualified to comment on.

The state veterinary board suspended Aversa’s license for 30 days and ordered him to shadow a shelter vet for 64 hours without pay. Once the required hours have been put in, Aversa will again be allowed to practice, and will be on a probationary status with the board. Which will surely bring comfort to any animals he hurls to the floor or leaves to suffer in pain until their fucking feet fall off.

If you live in Taos County, contact county manager Stephen Archuleta and tell him you don’t want one more penny of your tax money paid to Stray Hearts unless the entire board steps down.  Let the vols and staffers who filed the complaint run the place while things get sorted out.  Or find another group to contract for animal control.  Maintaining the status quo is unacceptable.  If Stray Hearts won’t do right by the lost and homeless animals in Taos Co, it’s up to the public to demand immediate changes be made.  At minimum, the shelter animals in Taos Co deserve a vet who won’t hurt them but will instead do his job to help them and shelter administrators who recognize that hurting pets is intolerable and will take action to protect the animals, not the abuser.

(Thanks Clarice for the links.)

12 thoughts on “Shelter Pet Abuse and Cowards In Taos County, NM

  1. I don’t understand why they don’t yank his license? As if shadowing another vet is going to make him a better person or something? No, just no. The guy needs to have criminal charges brought against him and he definitely needs to lose his license.

    Disgusting. I hope those wrongfully fired also bring charges.

  2. So I’ve gotta say, as somebody in the local area to Stray Hearts, the situation is not as all-consuming as you’re making it out to be. Yes, the veterinary situation is utter chaos, but as a whole they are a very hard-working group in an underserved area. They care for animals for years, and because of this fiasco they are needing to downsize a lot of their long-term animals. Yes, by downsize I mean they are currently working to find alternate placements but there’s a risk of euthanasia. Asking for funding to be pulled from under them is going to completely undo the work they do.

    1. “The work they do” appears to entail covering up for an animal abuser and firing those who speak up for the animals being abused. Any way to undermine that is a plus in my book.

      1. So, as the only licensed animal torturer/abuser in the area, yes, I would have them close. In fact, given what has happened there, I would have them close, and burn the place to the ground. Maybe then they can start over properly.

        If the leadership is willing to fire anyone who speaks out against abuse, is willing to let abuse and torture continue, then I’d have to say that yes, it’s “all-consuming”. Doing some good does not excuse enabling an ongoing horror show.

      2. The proximity of other shelters is irrelevant, even if they are the only shelter for 1000 miles – if the best they can do is hurt animals and attempt to cover it up by firing whistleblowers then they aren’t doing the job the community wants. Get some people in there who will do their jobs.

    2. So let’s say there’s only one day care in this underserved area. Their fees to watch children are reasonable, because they’re supported in part by county funding, and since there haven’t been many complaints about how the children are treated, it must be doing a good job. Until one day, someone is brave enough to report that some of the children are being bullied and abused – and one child has a broken arm because of what a staffer did, which other staffers witnessed – but the board of directors won’t admit responsibility, because, well, they just assumed everything was fine. I guess they should just be allowed to fire one staffer and everything should be allowed to go on with everyone else keeping their jobs?

      Not a f*!^ing chance.

      And don’t pull the “They’re *just* dogs and cats” crap. A living, breathing, feeling, loving creature (and likely way more than just one of them), died because a dumbass had a temper tantrum, and that same dumbass was also too lazy and cruel to properly care for an injured animal who had to suffer in pain for months before permanently losing a major body part! Yep, firing everyone and starting all over is completely warranted!

      1. It always sounds absurd when one considers the atrocities of these so-called animal shelters taking place in any human public service outlet. And yet most people believe homeless animals should be sheltered and most owners consider their pets family. Total disconnect.

      2. Then too, there’s this.

        These sorts of situations unfortunately do occur with distressing regularity within places that care for vulnerable people – in child care, in care homes for the severely mentally ill or profoundly disabled, in nursing homes, in clinics and hospitals. And so we do have a pretty good idea of what happens when they’re given the benefit of the doubt:

        The abuse and negligence continues.

        Thing is, these things don’t happen in a vacuum. They happen within workplace and industry cultures that allow or even encourage them, and if those cultures are resilient, it doesn’t even matter if now and then there are serious consequences.

        So, sure, we can give Stray Hearts the benefit of the doubt. But what then? Why should we believe they’re any better than, say, the people within California’s services for the profoundly disabled? –

  3. Dear God in Heaven- Please fix!! Your creation has gone amuck with evil and those that apologize and continue to support it.

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