SANTA FE (KRQE) - The clock is ticking for Debra Clopton, and the cost to care for dozens of animals seized from a her home is quickly rising.
A judge has ordered Clopton to pay back the Santa Fe Animal Shelter for those costs or give up her animals.
Since the first of the month, it's cost the shelter $900 a day to care for the dogs, which has already amounted to nearly $15,000. The longer Clopton waits to make a decision, the more she or taxpayers will have to pay.
The accused animal hoarder and former veterinarian avoided comment after the judge's decision Monday ordering her to pay thousands back to the Santa Fe Animal Shelter.
Shelter officials said it costs $20 per dog for the remaining 45 dogs seized from Clopton's Edgewood home. Three were put down days after the seizure for neurological problems.
"This is is a very expensive matter, and I think the judge made a good ruling placing the responsibility where it belongs," County Attorney Rachel Brown told reporters after the hearing.
The dogs have been held at the Santa Fe shelter pending 48 charges against Clopton for animal cruelty .
An Animal Control officer testified during the hearing that the conditions the dogs were found in were unlivable. He said trash and feces were everywhere and that some dogs were piled into small kennels and unable to move inside Clopton's trailer.
Shelter officials said they want what's best for the animals.
"We'd like her to relinquish the animals as soon as possible," Ben Swan, with the Santa Fe Animal Shelter told Clopton's lawyer after the hearing.
"I will definitely relay that to her," Scott Pistone, Clopton's Attorney responded.
According to the County Attorney's office, Clopton has not paid anything or relinquished any dogs yet. Clopton's attorney said Monday she's always had the dogs' best interest in mind.
"The first thing I want everybody to know, and my client wants everybody to know is she loves animals," Pistone said.
Santa Fe Animal Shelter officials said they are still having to turn away voluntary releases on a daily basis because the dogs in this case are taking up so much space. There's also seven pups that as they're growing, won't fit in just one kennel.
The county attorney has a week from the hearing to draft an order, then the 15 days Clopton has to pay kick in. If Clopton doesn't pay the costs to the county in 15 days, they'll automatically be given to the shelter for adoption.
She can work to regain custody of 10 dogs, since that's all Santa Fe County allows.
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