Share story

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A former veterinarian was sentenced to jail and barred from having contact with animals for the next 10 years after authorities say they found 48 dogs living in inhumane conditions in her New Mexico home.

Debra Clopton was sentenced Monday to four years in jail following her conviction last year of practicing veterinary medicine without a license and nearly two dozen counts of animal cruelty, The Santa Fe New Mexican reported . However, with credit for days incarcerated and pre-trial electronic monitoring, Clopton could spend about nine more months in jail, according to the newspaper.

The Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office began an investigation in 2013 after neighbors reported nonstop barking at Clopton’s Edgewood home. Authorities later searched the house, finding the dogs in poor condition.

Inside the house, the stench of feces and urine was overwhelming, an animal control officer, said. The dogs were crowded into kennels and many were sick, according to trial testimony.

Several dogs were euthanized due to illness or injuries, authorities said.

Clopton, 53, lost her veterinary license in 2012 though she continued to practice, authorities said.

Clopton’s public defender Jennifer Burrill had argued for probation for her client. She claimed Clopton’s lapse in judgment was linked to an undiagnosed medical condition.

“What I see before me and what I have consistently seen before me is an unaccountable woman,” District Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer said. “I think it’s a mental illness issue, a hoarder issue, much more than a thyroid issue.”

The Santa Fe Animal Shelter & Humane Society was given custody of the remaining dogs. Shelter officials said new homes were found for all the dogs.


Information from: The Santa Fe New Mexican,