Crime

Valerie Harris, accused serial animal abuser: Homes sought for rescued survivors

The Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region is seeking loving homes for more than sixty animals that were rescued from what Pueblo County authorities see as a terribly neglectful one.

Their past owner, Valerie Harris, has been charged with aggravated cruelty to animals -- an accusation of the sort she's faced in the past.

As reported by KRDO-TV, Harris, who owns land in the Pueblo County community of Boone, has two previous animal abuse convictions on her record. In 2007, nineteen horses were seized from her property, prompting a similar adoption announcement later that same year. Then, in 2009, she was cited for neglect in regard to two maltreated dogs.

In January, however, the number of affected animals easily exceeded the total of these incidents. After receiving an anonymous tip, a fifteen member team featuring staffers from the Humane Society and Pueblo Animal Law Enforcement executed a warrant on Harris's property. There, they discovered 67 animals, including 34 equines (mostly horses, but donkeys and mules were also represented), 31 dogs (one of which was reportedly feeding on another dead animal to survive), a cat and a llama. And they were in bad shape.

"The animals were taken into protective custody due to inhumane conditions that were among the worst I have ever seen," said Joe Stafford, Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region's Director of Animal Law Enforcement, in a HSPPR release. "There were starving and emaciated animals scattered throughout the property living in unimaginable circumstances."

The situation is captured in the following news report from January. Be prepared: some of the visuals are shocking.

Harris was released after her arrest, but she was soon back in the company of law enforcers. On February 16, according to the Pueblo Chieftain, she was busted again after Pueblo County deputies discovered seven dead horses on or near her property.

The Humane Society has been nursing the other animals back to health, and doing so hasn't been cheap: The costs are estimated at $20,000 so far. As such, donations are being sought to help cover the expense. To learn more, phone 719-473-1741, extension 8712, or send an e-mail to [email protected].

As for Harris, she faces the potential of eighteen months in jail and a $100,000 fine for each animal she's found to have abused. Here's a larger look at her mug shot.

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More from our Politics archive: "Animal abuse registry bill fails over concern people listed would be hounded forever."

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts

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