CLAYTON, NM (KFDA) - Nearly 120 animals are now in the care of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) following an investigation into the Dreampower Foundation Sanctuary in Clayton.
The Eighth Judicial District Attorney's Office and Union County Sheriff's Office asked the ASPCA to assist with evidence collection, removal of the animals, medical assessments, veterinary forensics, animal transportation, and ongoing care of the animals.
According to their Facebook page, the Dreampower Foundation calls itself "a sanctuary for life for homeless animals and homeless people with their animals". The ASPCA said the property owner, Diane Benedict, ran a similar sanctuary in Colorado.
In 2017, that sanctuary was found to be operating in violation of a court order prohibiting her from having more than 15 animals on the property without the requisite license.
"This is a very detailed and ongoing investigation that has lasted for more than three months," said Detective Jody Reeser with the Union County Sheriff's Office. "Upon arriving at the property and executing the search warrant, it was initially observed that the property was in poor condition and our main concern was getting the animals the help that they need. This type of investigation wouldn't be possible without the current sheriff's leadership, and we are pleased with the assistance that the ASPCA has provided - they're key partners in the investigation and operation of this size and we couldn't have done it without their help."
The ASPCA said authorities discovered dogs and cats living in deplorable conditions and many of them appeared to be suffering from medical issues, injuries and neglect.
"Dozens of dogs were found running loose throughout the property and some of them were in ramshackle kennels with little to no protection from the extreme heat and wind," the ASPCA said in a news release. "Many of the food bowls were empty, or filled with filthy backwater or frozen over. Cats were confined to rooms inside the home, including the basement where they were found living with dirty litterboxes and dead mice."
"It was evident as soon as we arrived on the property that these animals were living in appalling conditions for quite some time," said Tim Rickey, vice president of ASPCA Field Investigations and Response.
The ASPCA is transporting the animals to a temporary, undisclosed shelter operated by their organization where they will receive veterinary care. They will stay at that shelter until custody is determined in court.
The ASPCA said charges are pending once evidence is submitted and approved by the district attorney's office.
When the Dreampower Foundation's Colorado facility came under scrutiny, Diane Benedict shared the below post on Facebook, saying the animals would be sent "to our New Mexico facility where several live-in volunteers care for them 24/7/365. We are thus cooperating with the authorities. I know a lot of legal struggle lies ahead for me, yet that's ok. The cats and dogs are safe."