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KFOX14 Investigates: conditions inside Animal Services Center of the Mesilla Valley

KFOX14 Investigates received disturbing photos alleging poor living conditions for the animals at the Animal Services Center of the Mesilla Valley.

***Warning: The video and pictures attached to this article may be disturbing to some.***

KFOX14 Investigates received disturbing photos alleging poor living conditions for the animals at the Animal Services Center of the Mesilla Valley (ASCMV).

The photos are hard to look at. They were sent to KFOX14 anonymously by someone claiming to be an employee at ASCMV.

The photos show filthy living conditions, crowded kennels, and dogs injured from fighting.

One photo even shows a dead dog, with a leg ripped off by its kennel mates.

KFOX14 Investigates took the photos to Executive Director Dr. Beth Vesco-Mock, who had not seen the photos before Wednesday.

“Those are very old photos,” said Dr. Vesco-Mock.

Dr. Vesco-Mock said the undated photos appear to be from last summer and 2015.

She said since then, the shelter has changed protocols on how it handles fighting.

Something that's naturally going to happen with dogs.

“Whenever you are housing several dogs together, dogs can fight,” said Dr. Vesco-Mock.

Dr. Beth said the shelter has made significant progress to stop fights from happening. And she said she’s not hiding the fact that it occurs, as evident in her annual report, which documents these cases.

Dr. Vesco-Mock gave KFOX14 Investigates a tour through the busy shelter.

“I am taking you through the entire building,” she said. She also said it's important to be transparent with the public.

Dr. Vesco-Mock said many of the dogs are housed three to a kennel, maybe more if they're smaller dogs.

“We do not want to house three and four in a run -- that’s not ideal. If our intake numbers could go down, I think we could get down to two to three a run, but we aren't there yet,” said Dr. Vesco-Mock.

Dona Ana County struggles with a high number of unwanted animals.

It has one of the highest shelter intake rates in the country.

“I can’t empathize enough; the key is pet retention in this community and lowering the intake into the shelter,” said Dr. Vesco-Mock.

Dr. Vesco-Mock said the standard is to give each dog enough room to lay down, stretch out and stand up.

As long as that's happening, every dog has a few roommates because its better than the alternative.

“They're not in the plastic bag in the dump, dead. I think that’s what we all want, we want these animals to live,” said Dr. Vesco-Mock.

The shelter is using every square foot of space available. Dr. Vesco-Mock even has four large crates with dogs in her office.

Some of the kennels KFOX14 Investigates saw on the tour were soiled. But the majority were clean, and there were employees making their morning rounds, cleaning the rest of the kennels.

Dr. Vesco-Mock said the photos taken from the outdoor runs are from the infirmary for sick dogs. She said those runs can get muddy and messy after heavy rains. Wednesday, the conditions were far better.

Still, Dr. Vesco-Mock said she would like to have cement instead of dirt, but that's an expensive upgrade.

“We are working on improving the space we have,” said Dr. Vesco-Mock.

Currently, the shelter operates on a $2 million budget; by comparison El Paso Animal Services has about a $9.5 million budget.

Dr. Vesco-Mock said finding good employees is also a challenge

“We are a very low-resource shelter,” said Dr. Vesco-Mock.

But the shelter boasts a low euthanasia rate; last year it was just 25 percent, with a live-release rate close to 75 percent.

By comparison, El Paso Animal Services had a live-release rate of 40 percent in 2015.

“I don't believe that the average citizen in Dona Ana County wants us to kill everything. They want us to use all of the resources that’s available to us to save them,” said Dr. Vesco-Mock.

Dr. Vesco-Mock said adoptions have also gone down.

“I believe we have saturated the market,” said Dr. Vesco-Mock.

So a few years ago, she got creative.

KFOX14 first reported when the shelter began transporting animals to rescue partners in different states.

Now, the shelter transports to rescue partners on both the east and west coasts.

“We have just got to keep them and get them there. They are playing they are happy here. Then they go on that bus, they go for their Cadillac treatment,” said Dr. Vesco-Mock. She compared ASCMV to a Volkswagen -- it’s not fancy but it gets the job done.

Every month ASCMV sends hundreds of cats and dogs to forever homes coast to coast, and that creates more space at the shelter to save more animals.

“We use every resource available, every piece of soil available to humanely save these animals. When we can no longer do it humanely, we do let them go to heaven,” said Dr. Vesco-Mock.

The shelter is about to undergo a $1.1 million expansion.

Dr. Vesco-MOck said they are constantly finding ways to improve and enhance protocols.

She added that the shelter is really in need of volunteers and foster parents.

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