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Sheriff seizes 14 dogs from Road P property near Cortez

Colorado Human Society field investigators lift a dog out of a pen on County Road P on Thursday morning. Fourteen dogs were temporarily seized by the Montezuma County Sheriff after a search warrant and evaluations by the state veterinarian. (Jim Mimiaga/The Journal)
Search warrant executed for suspected animal neglect

After an investigation into possible animal neglect, Montezuma County Sheriff Steve Nowlin on Thursday morning ordered the temporary seizure of 14 dogs from a property on County Road P.

A search warrant was executed by the Sheriff’s Office to inspect livestock and dogs at the property and animal living conditions, Nowlin said.

“A temporary removal of the outside dogs was issued for insufficient water, food, shelter and overall living conditions,” Nowlin said. “(The owners) have been cooperative.”

The 11-acre property at 31104 Road P includes about 30 horses, burros, seven head of cattle, sheep, goats and dogs, he said. Sharon Ward is listed as the property owner, according to the Montezuma County Assessor’s Office.

Nowlin said an investigation was launched in June after neighbors complained about the welfare of the animals.

He said at that time investigators suspected livestock and other animals lacked sufficient food, water and shelter, and the owners were instructed to improve the situation.

Thursday morning, the sheriff and deputies served the search warrant to inspect the welfare of the animals.

Dan Love, a veterinarian with the Colorado Department of Agriculture, gives a horse a health inspection during an investigation at a property on County Road P. The livestock passed health inspections. (Jim Mimiaga/The Journal)

Officers were accompanied by Colorado Department of Agriculture veterinarian Dan Love, Colorado brand inspectors and Colorado Humane Society field investigators.

The health and living conditions of the livestock have improved since the investigation a month ago, Nowlin said in an interview at the scene. After health evaluations by the state veterinarian, it was determined a seizure of the livestock was not required.

“Each animal was inspected by the state veterinarian,” Nowlin said. “The owners are ... cooperating, conditions have improved. The animals have food and water.”

No citations were issued, he said, adding that the investigation will continue.

Animals feed on hay at a property on County Road P being investigated for suspected animal neglect. Montezuma County Sheriff Steve Nowlin said conditions for livestock have improved and they were not removed. However, 14 dogs were temporarily seized, he said. (Jim Mimiaga/The Journal)

The owners can petition to regain possession of the dogs through a court process and evaluation. Depending on the outcome of the courts, or if the dogs are voluntarily surrendered, they may be put up for adoption.

The owners were directed to provide special care to seven of the horses, Nowlin said, and there will be follow-up inspections.

Ward declined to comment for this story.

Field investigators for the Colorado Humane Society were seen befriending the mixed-breed dogs and loading them into crates and a van for transport.

The dogs are evaluated and are provided with necessary care and vaccinations, officials said. Where exactly they were transported was not available.

The Colorado Humane Society is the cruelty and neglect program under the Dumb Friends League.

The Colorado Humane Society responded to County Road P as part of a search warrant for suspected animal neglect. (Jim Mimiaga/The Journal)

Field investigators are trained animal protection officers, said Joan Thielen, public relations manager for the Dumb Friends League.

She could not comment about specific neglect cases. In general, the agency works closely with county sheriffs and state veterinarians to help animals across Colorado, she said.

Officials with the Colorado Department of Agriculture evaluate branding and animal health Thursday morning at a County Road P property as part of a search warrant. State veterinarian Dan Love, right, conducted the health evaluations. The livestock were deemed to be in sufficient health, and a seizure was not necessary. Fourteen dogs were seized from the property. (Jim Mimiaga/The Journal)

When animals are seized by law enforcement for their protection, they may be transported to various facilities, including the Dumb Friends League, other humane society centers, rescue facilities or veterinarian clinics, Thielen said. Foster homes may also be used.

Education and developing relationships with pet owners about appropriate care of pets and animals is a big component of the program, she said.

jmimiaga@the-journal.com