Animals

Jan 10, 2012 7:57 PM by Andy Koen

Abuse suspect received probation in two previous cases

The Pueblo County woman who had more than 60 animals taken from her property has a history of animal abuse. Valeria Harris, 55, has pleaded guilty on two previous occasions for animal cruelty, but this latest case is certainly the largest.

Investigators reported not finding any food or water on her property in Boone for the 29 horses, six donkeys and a llama they recovered. The bodies of two other horses and a donkey were also found, as were 34 dogs who were reported to be underweight and without adequate shelter or water. Harris told the animal control agents that 15 of the dogs belonged to her and another 15 belonged to her brother. The other four apparently belonged to a friend.

Jan McHugh-Smith, the president and CEO of the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region says the sheer volume of animals seized puts a "huge strain" on their finances. There were so many animals they had to be split between shelters in Pueblo and Colorado Springs. McHugh Smith says most need medical attention and special care. She estimates the minimum cost to care for them to be $20,000.

"Many organizations won't take these cases on but the Humane Society obviously is very committed to making sure animals are not abused and that we get them out of these situations," she said.

Harris' history with animals isn't good. It took nearly a year to nurse the 19 horses seized from her property in 2007 back to health. She pleaded guilty in that case and was sentenced to a year of probation.

But in 2009 she was arrested again was for animal cruelty when two dogs were taken from her. She pleaded guilty in that case as well.

"It's very frustrating when you see a repeat offender like this," McHugh-Smith said. "We do our best to prosecute these cases to the fullest extent of the law and we need the court system to hold these people accountable."

Harris currently being held on $75,000 bond. She is scheduled to make her first appearance on January 23.

Donations can be made online to Pueblo Animal Services or by calling 719-544-3005. Donations can also be made online to the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region or by calling 719-473-1741.

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