Location: the Southwest Livestock Auction & Slaughter Horse Feedlot
Date: 3/10/12
Address: 24 Dalies Road Los Lunas, New Mexico 87031
Owner: Dennis Chavez 505-865-4600 505-866-0149 fax
Sale Schedule: Cattle Auction: Saturdays @ 12:00 noon Special Horse Sales 4 times/year.

SW Livestock Auction, NM

Dennis Chavez

is New Mexico’s largest kill buyer. According to USDA records, he uses the export pens at Santa Teresa directly across the border from Ciudad Juarez to transship close to 10,000 horses each year to Mexican slaughter plants. Some of the plants still slaughter horses with the inhumane Puntilla knife method, a barbaric practice that leaves the horse fully conscious during the slaughter process.

The investigation was triggered by numerous complaints Animals’ Angels received about the treatment of the animals at the feedlot. Photographs & reports received from an anonymous source showed multiple incidents of inadequate care & extremely emaciated horses.



Investigators with Animals Angels arrived at the auction at 7:19am. The large auction consists of a building with office, staff rooms, auction ring, restaurant and an extensive outside pen area with arena. The pens have no shelter. The larger pens have water troughs. A large amount of hay was piled up in the middle of the pen area, but several of the horse pens had only corn husks to eat.

Multiple horses were found in bad condition (emaciated, untreated wounds, open cuts, lame, strangles, eye injuries), too many to be included in this report.


One very thin grey has untreated, deep, lacerations to both eyes. He is believed to be blind in his right eye, and has limited vision in his left.
He stayed close to a chestnut, which he used as a “seeing” companion. His entire body was covered with marks. Marked with slaughter tag,
and large “X”, he could have been one of the many rejects. Even with apparent unkind handling, this horse licked the investigator’s hand.

In the same pen, one very emaciated, older thoroughbred (lip tattoo not clear), had teeth so overgrown they protruded from his mouth. It is questionable that he was able to eat at all. He was very weak.

In the last pen on the right hand side of the main alley, 4 horses were down, unable to rise and in obvious distress:

1) A light grey mare was pawing in agony at the ground near water trough.
She had dug deep trenches in the ground. She was lifting her head and biting her tongue.

2) A severely emaciated palomino mare.

3) A extremely emaciated light bay/buckskin mare with blaze.

4) A severely emaciated, light grey mare with black spots. The mare attempted to get up numerous times, but was falling back to the ground each time, unable to stand. Open, bleeding wound on hips.

Investigators proceeded

to the office and alerted the office staff about the condition of the horses and requested that they (be) euthanized immediately. They were informed that the veterinarian would not return for another hour.

After approx. 20 minutes,

an older gentleman came out of one of the rooms behind the office and approached the investigators. Without introducing himself, he briefly questioned the investigators and then agreed to join them to check the pen area. While walking, he defiantly defended Dennis Chavez, even stating that he would “rescue” horses and that he was “giving them a chance to live”. Only after being asked to identify himself, he confirmed that he indeed was an inspector for the New Mexico Livestock Board, named “BJ” [Winchester].

After the investigators had informed him about the 4 horses dying and in need of immediate euthanasia, he stated that he was not going to “push Dennis” to stop the sale in order to help the horses. He also stated that the veterinarian would not look at the horses that day. He made it very clear that he was not going to do anything right away and that the sale would not be interrupted. The investigators insisted on immediate euthanasia and argued with the inspector all the way down to the pen.


the light grey mare next to water trough had died without assistance. BJ briefly looked at her and still did not indicate that he would take any action. Instead, he asked the investigators if they were “animal rights people”.


a pen worker arrived and offered to shoot the remaining horses immediately. Put on the spot by the workers spontaneous offer, BJ finally gave the go-ahead to shoot the remaining 3.

The investigators were told they could not watch the euthanasia, but they observed from a distance that the worker really took care of the horses right away. Afterwards, he removed their bodies and dumped them behind the high stacks of hay bales near the quarantine pen.

New Mexico Law states that:

30-18-1. Cruelty to animals;

  • 1. negligently mistreating, injuring, killing without lawful justification or tormenting an animal; or
  • 2. abandoning or failing to provide necessary sustenance to an animal under that person’s custody.

30-18-14. Livestock crimes; livestock inspectors to enforce;

  • Livestock inspectors who are certified peace officers shall enforce the provisions of Chapter 30, Article 18 NMSA 1978 and other criminal laws relating to livestock.

As such, it is the duty of the Livestock Inspector present at the sale to check the condition of all horses inside the pen area and ensure that dying animals are euthanized in a timely manner. Inspector Winchester was wantonly negligent in allowing the obvious suffering of the horses to continue until an auction employee volunteered to euthanize the suffering horses. Additionally, he should have initiated cruelty charges against Dennis Chavez for negligently mistreating these horses.

Chavez as the owner of the feedlot has the duty of care and needs to ensure that all animals are given at least the minimum standards the law requires. The fact that these horses are slaughter horses does not exclude them from the protection of the law.

Animals’ Angels investigators took video of what they observed and turned it over to the local DA who filed 12 counts of misdemeanor offenses against Dennis Chavez on June 5, 2012. Four of the charges are for animal cruelty, four are for failing to treat an animal that can’t walk and four more are for not having a bill of sale for the horses. The charges could add up to nearly 11 years in prison.

Chavez was charged with 16 counts stemming from another animal cruelty case in 1990; all but one were dismissed by prosecutors. He was acquitted on the remaining charge.


Writing yesterday, Animals’ Angels says that the case against Mr. Chavez is still pending. “We are watching this case carefully for a satisfactory outcome. It is not unusual for an animal cruelty case to take over a year to go to trial. We have dealt with several cases like this in the past and unfortunately they can take some time to be resolved. Please know that we are keeping a close eye on the situation. We will not forget what happened and will ensure that he is being held accountable for his actions.”

Southwest Livestock Auction

is one of the 6 largest killer auctions in the country. The others are Sugar Creek Livestock Auction in Ohio, New Holland Sales Stables in Pennsylvania, Billings Livestock Auction in Montana, Shipshewana Horse & Tack Auction in Indiana, and Stephenville, in Texas. Killer auctions can be found throughout the country.