Case of mysterious dog disappearances opens wide in New Mexico

Life With Dogs is reader-supported. We may earn a small commission through products purchased using links on this page.

In the rural communities east of Albuquerque, dogs have been disappearing.  From inside kennels, yards with locked fences, and inside homes pets were vanishing and owners were heartbroken.  When a dog owner recently came home and saw someone driving off with her pit bulls, they gave chase prompting the thief to toss the dogs from the moving vehicle, and cracking the case wide open.

Debbie Swenerton, who was arrested on November 16th is suspected of taking the stolen dogs to shelters in other states and claiming that they were strays.  She was charged with cruelty to animals, burglary and false imprisonment. Edgewood animal control officer Mike Ring feels it may a case of an overzealous effort of a larger network of local activists who are concerned about the treatment of animals in rural areas, where many dogs are tied up, live outside or are allowed to roam freely.  To date, no one else has been arrested but the investigation is ongoing.

Quinn Kirby is Swenerton’s lawyer and said in an email, “Debbie cares deeply about animals and dedicates a great deal of her time and resources to animal welfare. It is outrageous to suggest that someone like her would do something so heinous as to throw a dog out the window of a moving car. Debbie has not committed any crimes and we are confident that she will be exonerated.”

One of the dogs thrown from the car suffered some road rash but otherwise they are fine.  A friend of Swenerton’s, Barbara Tellier says that she believes Swenerton is being set up for trying to raise awareness about the treatment of dogs in the area.  “Debbie is making waves,” Tellier said. “She is emailing everybody trying to get help for these animals who are locked outside without enough shelter, or not enough water in the summertime, or running loose to get hit by a car … and nobody is doing anything.”

According to Ring, at least 60 dogs have been reported missing in the last 2 years.  “It’s a sad story when people are calling to report their animals are missing,” he said. “You can hear the emotion in their voice. Some of them have children. These are family pets. It’s heartbreaking, some of these cases.”  Melissa Crozier’s dog Simba recently went missing from her home.  She said, “I came home and he was gone. I have no idea how he could have gotten out” unless someone opened the door.

Swenerton has long been suspected in this case as she is known by law enforcement and animal control authorities in Torrance, Bernalillo and Santa Fe counties for calling to report suspected animal abuse. In most cases the animals were fine, with food, water and proper shelter. In most cases, they were also outside.  Torrance County Undersheriff Martin Rivera says “she felt she was doing the right thing. … I think she just wanted to save these animals.”

8 thoughts on “Case of mysterious dog disappearances opens wide in New Mexico”

  1. well as always there are 2 sides to every story and we all know that the media seems to always trump up a story to sell.. So we all need to look into this more deeply to get to the truth…. we all know that there are numerous dogs being tethered as to some states have made it against the law due to neglect and abuse… on 1 hand I can see her as one to help out an animal at any costs, only because I would too if the animal was in dyer straits, but if waiting to the point of starving, or heat stroke, lack of all humane needs being could get ulgy and worse.. So were do u draw the line?? It is said that numerous times there were call sent out to help an animal only to get nothing in return.. we also know that most spca’s will not intervine unless the animal is surely dieing….but to the expanse of the owner of course…or maybe found, left at the doorstep (right) or a donor calling of a stray….and then these dogs are killed if not adopted in 7 maybe days…So knowing all this… maybe she broke the law of human respect by taking a dog that seemed in distress…to get it help!!!!! She brought these dogs to a shelter or rescue to have it recieve the help she knew it needed… She did not abuse, neglect,starve, torture or kill these animals……SHE THOUGHT SHE WAS SAVING THEM…. PERIOD! I do not know this women but the police do I assume as its stated.. as said she was trying to save GOD’S creatures from the elements….whether human or nature!!!!!! If animal control did its job and invested in its callers, we wouldn’t have people trying to save any animals.. This isn’t the first time a neighbor or whoever took a dog to save its life…..ANd won’t be the last I hope… I would save a dog first and then worry about the outcome if it meant saving that dog…. but hey thats just me!!!!!!

    • Hey everyone… Debbie Swenerton is seemingly hiding behind an Anonymous profile, trying to defend herself on this blog! No one else would so vehemently defend someone who is blatantly breaking the law (stealing is stealing and hello, breaking and entering) and obviously has mental problems.

  2. so we have people trying to save dogs from the elements, we have cops killing innocent dogs when their undercontrol due to laziness or racism… we have sick minded people killing,starving,torturing and burning dogs….Then when a person tries to help out dogs she thinks needs her help due to being tethered n the heat of the day with no water or shelter …. she’s sick…They stated they thought she was being set up… wouldn’t be the first time someone was… and really I complained one time of dogs being out day and night all winter and told me as long as they had a place to go into~ they couldn’t do anything~u should of seen the place they had for shelter, u would of cried…. before we judge~ we should know both sides…I’m not saying she isn’t well? I just think we should try and understand why she was saving these dogs… a “pound” isn’t the safest I know, but if a dog was in the sun day in an day out without , maybe its a place to save a life??????

    • No, you’re the one being set up! Look there… over your shoulder, “they” are trying to get you. [sarcasm] Please… you’re not well. Go lie down, take a nap or something.

  3. That is exactly why I will not leave my dogs outside unattended! People come into yards stealing them. If they go outside, they are with me!!

  4. While I applaud this woman for being concerned about these dogs, it does not give her the right to take a dog off of it’s property. She did the right thing by calling the police concerned about outside dogs, but these cases were looked into and the dogs were well taken care of. Just because they are outside does not mean that they are being neglected. The worse part is that while she thinks that she is saving the day, she put innocent dogs in danger by throwing them from a moving vehicle. Does that not scream ‘ANIMAL CRUELTY’?? And by taking these pets to shelters to ‘help’ them… Many of those dogs probably lost their lives because they were not adopted within a certain amount of time. This woman may have started with good intentions, but unfortunately has done more harm than good.


Leave a Comment