Notorious kill buyer Dennis Chavez under investigation

Monday, January 16, 2023 - 12:45
Investigation Category: 

Notorious kill buyer Dennis Chavez under official investigation

It’s been over a decade since Animals’ Angels first reported on Dennis Chavez, the largest slaughter horse buyer in New Mexico and one of the four largest US exporters of slaughter horses to Mexico.

In 2012, our investigators discovered a nightmarish scene at the large feedlot, livestock auction, and event center Chavez operates in Los Lunas, New Mexico.

Our team observed & documented the horrific conditions endured by the horses inside the feedlot, who were left to suffer without any assistance or veterinary care.

  • - Almost all of the animals at the facility were extremely thin and malnourished. Some horses were too emaciated to stand.
  • - Many horses were suffering through serious injuries and painful wounds without treatment.
  • - Multiple horses appeared to have been recently and callously gelded without proper veterinary care in order to quickly meet the “no stallions” rule enforced by the Mexican slaughter plants.
  • - One horse was standing despondently next to a dead foal who had been recently aborted and left in with the other horses.

The report we produced after our visit included full details of the shocking condition of the horses inside the feedlot and was accompanied by heartbreaking photos and video taken by our team during the investigation. The case soon made national and international news.

Our supporters and other animal advocates responded with outrage. The horrifying details eventually reached New Mexico’s Attorney General, the state’s Land Commissioner, and even New Mexico’s governor, Susana Martinez, who ordered the ensuing criminal investigation to be fast tracked.

In the end, Dennis Chavez was charged with 12 counts, including animal cruelty, failure to treat an animal that can't walk, and not having a bill of sale for the horses he sold. He received a year of probation and had to pay $5,000.

Throughout the last decade, Animals’ Angels investigators have continued to closely monitor Dennis Chavez’s activities, prompting the kill buyer to increase security and surveillance at his feedlot.

This increased security has proven challenging for our investigators tasked with observing and documenting the condition of the animals in Chavez’s care.

Nevertheless, we have persisted in our ongoing investigations, working tirelessly to collect additional evidence against Chavez, and disrupting his activities by reporting violations of laws and regulations to the relevant authorities at local, state, and federal levels.

Just last month, Chavez was the subject of yet another Animals’ Angels investigation. Our team of investigators arrived at Los Lunas early in the morning of December 6, 2022, getting there just in time to see an El Camino Trucking transport vehicle leaving the feedlot with a load of horses headed for slaughter.

Driving behind the vehicle, our team immediately noticed unusual movement coming from the single deck trailer. They followed the transport until the driver stopped at a gas station to fuel.

When our investigators looked inside the trailer, they were dismayed to see that one of the horses in the back compartment had gone down and was being trampled by the other horses in the trailer, who were struggling to maintain their footing on the slippery trailer floor, which was covered in deep manure.

They also saw that several horses had incurred fresh cuts on their legs during the struggle and noted that the trailer had been damaged and contained a sharp-edged hole big enough to trap a horse’s leg.

Fearing additional severe injuries to the downer horse, our investigators approached the driver and urged him to help the poor animal. The driver responded by poking the horse in its side with a moving stick, managing to get the animal up onto shaky, unstable legs.

He then continued on his way toward the border instead of heading back to the feedlot to seek treatment for the injured animal or to repair the damage to the transport vehicle, which was clearly in violation of federal regulation 9 CFR Sec.88.3 which states that “the animal cargo space of conveyances used for the commercial transportation of equines to slaughtering facilities must be designed, constructed, and maintained in a manner that at all times protects the health and well-being of the equines being transported.”

Unable to stop the transport, our team immediately contacted the USDA investigative enforcement unit and reported the incident, providing information about the truck’s location and destination.

Shortly thereafter, we received a return call confirming that an official investigation had been launched for a potential violation of the Commercial Transport of Equines to Slaughter Regulations. All the photos and videos collected by the Animals’ Angels team will be entered into evidence in the case.

Considering Chavez’s history of serious violations, we remain optimistic that he’ll be held accountable for his actions.

Our Mission to Hold Chavez Accountable Is Saving Lives

After 10 years of relentless investigations and advocacy efforts focused on Dennis Chavez, we can measure the success of our work in lives saved.

Throughout the last decade, Chavez’s horse slaughter business has significantly decreased year over year. At the start, he operated his own trucking company that shipped well over 10,000 horses to slaughter each year.

Now, his trucking company has been shut down, and the number of horses shipped to slaughter has been reduced by 80%, with approximately 2,000 horses sent to slaughter last year. That means thousands of lives are being saved each year due to advocacy efforts on behalf of the animals, and we aren’t done yet.

Our entire investigative team remains committed to continuing our mission until 100% of the abuse is stopped for good.