Livestock inspector charged with animal cruelty

LOS CHAVEZ, N.M. (KRQE) – A New Mexico livestock inspector accused of  trapping a chihuahua in a leg hold trap set in his backyard has been charged with animal cruelty.

The short complaint briefly details the charges against B.J. Winchester, “set wildlife leg hold traps on his property with the intention of trapping domestic dogs.”

Valencia County Animal Control Director Erik Tanner said, it’s all about intent.

“All the instructions and rules on trap setting through the state of New Mexico are for fur bearers. These were not set for fur bearers, they were set for domestic dogs,” says Tanner.

Tanner explains, it’s not illegal to set leg hold traps on your own property to catch animals like coyotes but it is illegal to set them for pets.

“The county ordinance is written to where you cannot maim or injure any trespassing animal beyond what is reasonably necessary to keep them off your property,” says Tanner.

Yet, leg hold traps can break a leg and/or deeply cut an animal.

“I don’t see how we can allow that,” said Tanner.

Tanner tells KRQE News 13 he understands Winchester’s frustration, losing livestock to stray dogs. But insists there are other ways to handle it.

“Setting a live trap would have been best. There are large cage traps,” explains Tanner.

A live trap is currently on Winchester’s property, replacing the leg hold traps we found last week.

Wanda Couch, the owner of the chihuahua trapped last week, tells KRQE it’s a relief.

“I just hope that he realizes that some dogs belong to people and are loved,” Couch said.

Couch said Winchester deserves the animal cruelty charge, but says he wishes no ill will against her neighbor.

“In fact, when I got Nika back that day, I thanked him,” Couch said.

Winchester could not be reached for comment.

Tanner said Couch will receive a citation for having her dog out. Couch said she’s working to reinforce her fence to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

KRQE News 13 spoke to New Mexico Livestock Board Executive Director Ray Baca. He says Winchester has been on administrative leave since Baca got wind of the story last week. Baca says they’ve launched an internal investigation and will take these charges into account.

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