Wilfred Salas

Rancher acquitted of animal cruelty

Las Vegas, NM


A San Miguel County Jury acquitted a horse owner of charges of animal cruelty – a major disappointment to the Prosecutor and animal-rights advocates who were expecting a conviction.

Evidence presented against rancher Wilfred Salas included photos of starving horses and another horse with a severely broken leg.  The jury found no criminal intent in Salas who stated he thought the animals had sufficient food when he left them and other livestock during an illness.


                   2004 Photo                                                 Two years later(Photo’s courtesy of KRQE News 13)

Rescue volunteers who took in the horses at the Walkin N Circles Ranch in Edgewood more than two years ago, stated the animals were near death.  Volunteer Peggy Conger stated that it takes many months of neglect to get a horse into end-stage starvation.

One of the horses, Lizzie, walks with a limp due to an injury she has had for several years. She was one of four horses rescued by a State Livestock Inspector from a ranch in Tecolotito, southeast of Las Vegas.

Salas’ attorney stated the horses became ill about the same time Salas did when he was forced to leave his home for a period of weeks in 2004. Salas left open a gate to a 20,000-acre field so his 100 head of livestock could eat during his absence, but for some reason, the horses did not. He also stated that Lizzie’s leg injury, inflicted by a vehicle, was already healing by the time he noticed it.  Salas could not afford to repair the injury and did not want to put the horse down.

Special Prosecutor Hector Balderas stated he was disappointed that the jury bought the argument that the alleged abuse was not intentional and that he is working to clarify the language of the statute.

Salas can now reclaim his horses, but his attorney stated that he is open to finding them new homes. 

Volunteers at the Edgewood rescue ranch have written a letter to Governor Bill Richardson pleading with him to strengthen animal-cruelty laws in New Mexico.


KRQE News 13