ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - A state Livestock Board inspector took appropriate action when he was told about four dying horses at a Los Lunas auction, but has been reprimanded for how he dealt with animal welfare group members, the board's director said.
Inspector B.J. Winchester has returned to his job following the determination and reprimand, Executive Director Myles Culbertson told the Albuquerque Journal (http://bit.ly/JeaxNI ).
Winchester was at the Southwest Livestock Auction last month when members of the Animals' Angels group found the downed horses. The group issued a report saying the inspector resisted their pleas to end the horses' misery.
Interviews with people at the auction show Winchester ordered the horses to be euthanized but he didn't deal professionally with the rescue group's members, Culbertson said.
"The facts don't bear up any kind of a negligence issue there, so we put him back to work," Culbertson said Thursday.
Winchester has worked as an inspector for about 10 years. He was accused in a report released by Animals' Angels of being "wantonly negligent in allowing the obvious suffering of the horses to continue until an auction employee volunteered to euthanize the suffering horses."
Culbertson said the personnel investigation showed otherwise.
"A number of the people who were employees of that yard out there, they all had different recollections from their own perspective, but what was common and consistent was the inspector having said, "Deal with it. These horses need to be put down," Culbertson said.
The Valencia County sheriff's department and Livestock Board are investigating the auction house for possibly animal cruelty.
Animals' Angels sent "inspectors" to the Los Lunas livestock auction after receiving complaints about the treatment of animals. They videotaped the four downed, emaciated horses, one of which had an open, bleeding gash at the hipbone.
The owner of the horse auction, Dennis V. Chavez, has not been charged. He has told the Journal that he expects to be vindicated because he did nothing wrong.
Culbertson said Winchester wasn't aware of the dying horses because he was assigned to work the livestock auction and the horses were in another area.
As for Winchester's comments that day, Culbertson said, "We expect a high level of professionalism among our inspectors. I'm not saying he was abusive with them (but) that he got into a tangential, useless discussion with them."
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