The Dennis Chavez Slaughter Horse Feedlot in New Mexico 


March 26, 2012

Animals' Angels
 PO Box 1056 Westminster, MD 21158

A note from Sonja

Six years of cruelty investigations have made it absolutely clear: Horse slaughter means a free pass, in effect, kill buyer amnesty for abuse, neglect and animal cruelty. But never has one single location screamed horse slaughter's cruelty more than at our March 10 investigation. Horse after horse after horse - yet completely typical of what goes on unabated in the slaughter pipeline. No feeling person could help but be heartbroken, and very angry.


Sonja & dying horseBut this investigation showed that obviously there are unfeeling, remorseless people with no empathy for these animals in their suffering. I do not wonder that 'ag' gag' laws are being promoted in state after state. Though it is difficult to imagine how much worse it could be, without pictures and documentation to tell the damning tale, animals would undoubtedly suffer even more at the hands of such people.


But it also needs your help--to say we care, it matters, and pressure authorities to make this matter to them. The suffering of these horses was not useless if we make a difference for better treatment for others to come, and punish those responsible. Please support our call for action at the bottom of the article. Your voices have made a difference before; please make a difference now. 

The Feedlot


Investigators knew the history of kill buyer Dennis Chavez beforehand:

  • major kill buyer, shipped 10,000 horses to slaughter last year
  • repeatedly cited for violations to equine to slaughter regulations
  • frequent complaints received by AA about Chavez's operation, all referencing significant abuse, neglect and animals suffering with no vet care or obviously necessary euthanasia

Emaciated HorseBut it was not enough to prepare investigators for what they found. AA investigators arrived at Chavez's Southwest Auction & Feedlot on March 10th for the auction's quarterly horse sale. 'Summit of the Horse' flyers were plastered everywhere.


After a walk-thru of the auction house pens, investigators noted a vast empty pen area, and behind this additional pens. Back here they find approximately 700 horses. Almost all are extremely thin with body scores well below 2. Many have serious injuries. 


"I've never seen horses like that," said one of the investigators. "Suffering was bad, busted up faces, even body scores of 1or less, and the injuries and wounds. There was so much."


In one of the first of the back pens, all are geldings and stallions that appeared to be recently gelded. Ungelded horses are rejected at the border because Mexican slaughter plants do not accept stallions. Dried blood covers the back legs, penises are extremely swollen and the horses stand motionless with heads down. One horse's penis is grotesquely swollen, strangulated looking, as if something has been wound tightly around it several times.


Aborted FoalIn the next pen an emaciated mare barely able to stand, sniffs a recently aborted dead foal, remaining near it the entire time investigators are present. There are several thin to emaciated thoroughbreds, one with a body score 1 and teeth so overgrown they protrude out of his mouth and probably prevent him from eating. "He was just so thin and weak standing in the corner alone, you knew he was about to go down," said the investigator.


Grey with face injuriesIn the next pen a beautiful palomino stood quietly with blood dripping from her eye. But then there was the emaciated grey horse nearby with both eyes destroyed. He stayed close to a chestnut 'seeing' companion. Marked with a large 'X,' he wore a slaughter tag. Investigators believed he was rejected at the export pens. Since last year's EU Report mentioning horses rejected at the border, AA has found that nothing is done for these distressed horses, that no one takes any responsibility or tracks them. Yet horses arriving in conditions that qualify as animal cruelty or in violation of Commercial Transport of Equines to Slaughter Regulations should be reported by pen operators to APHIS and local authorities. As AA said last year, "To run a cover up for offenders is intolerable."


Whatever the cause of his scarred and blinded condition, this horse has been dealt with harshly, yet even then he licked the investigator's hand.


Gray with bleeding hip injuryIn the last pen, 4 horses were down. The grey mare had a body score less than 1 and a large bleeding wound. It appeared the injury was from bone on ground impact as she kept trying to get up and falling. She had made trenches from repeated attempts to rise, lying flat for a while and then trying again. Her will to live and her complete betrayal were terrible to see.


Palomino dyingNext to her was a horribly thin palomino mare with her back legs tangled in hay baling twine, barely moving her front legs. On the other side of the pen was a light bay/buckskin mare that did not move at all. When investigators approached her ears moved. She looked at them with the whites of her eyes showing, afraid. Her body score may have been 1.


Grey mare biting tongueThe last of the 4 dying horses was a light grey mare, emaciated, her tongue was hanging out and she was biting it. She appeared to be in great distress and physical pain, her legs moving.


Investigators observed from a distance to see if auction staff, the vet, or the livestock inspector would come. After a long hour, nothing.


Bay mare dyingAA investigators then spoke with Mrs. Chavez in the auction office, who to her credit called the auction vet. Though investigators had been told Dr. Brasmer was present at the auction, no one was ever able to reach him .


Eventually livestock manager BJ Winchester came in and reluctantly began to walk very slowly to the back pens with the investigators. He was quick to defend Chavez, calling the horses 'rescues,' that Chavez was trying to 'nurture them back to health,' and that he was giving them, 'a chance to live.' He confirmed that the horses are Chavez's property.


Winchester became angry when investigators continued to insist that the suffering and dying horses should be euthanized. 'Nothing will be done right away,' he said. He asked if they were 'animal rights' and asserted he would not interrupt the auction. When they finally got to the last pen, the grey mare that was in so much distress had died. Vultures had already landed near her. Winchester had no reaction.



Livestock Inspector with Dead Grey
Livestock Inspector with grey mare - now dead

 The impasse was broken when an auction worker arrived saying he could put the horses down right away. The 'inspector' no longer had a say and the horses were euthanized.


The rest of the horses in all kinds of terrible conditions will get no help, not from Winchester or the vet that no one can find.


In New Mexico the livestock inspector is supposed to inspect and enforce cruelty laws. In itself this seems an unworkable and inadequate premise, made even clearer by BJ Winchester. It is difficult to imagine what it would take for him to file cruelty charges.The NM Livestock Board is appointed by the governor, 9 people representing livestock industry interests. These 9 also hire the inspectors who are charged with enforcing laws for livestock.


AA has sent all evidence by certified mail and has not received any response yet.  


Watch the video...(Warning: Images are graphic and might be disturbing to some viewers)


Read the full length report...








Please help us to seek justice for these horses and hold Dennis Chavez & BJ Winchester accountable!


Please contact the NM Livestock Board:



Gary Mora, Supervisor to BJ Winchester    



Myles Culbertson, Executive Director    


[email protected]


Bobby Pierce, Deputy Director          


[email protected]


Tell them to fully investigate this incident and BJ Winchester's actions. Ask them to initiate cruelty charges against Dennis Chavez.


Please also contact Attorney General Gary King:





He deserves to know both that enforcement of humane laws by livestock inspectors like BJ Winchester is a farce, and that Dennis Chavez seems to have a free pass when it comes to abuse and neglect of horses in his care that he owns.


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Sonja at horse auction  
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Animals' Angels works to improve conditions for farm animals. We closely cooperate with law enforcement and government agencies to fight animal cruelty. Our investigators are out in the field nationwide, visiting auctions, feedlots and slaughter plants.



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