“You will stay 25 feet away so you don’t even get to pet an animal”

“You will stay 25 feet away so you don’t even get to pet an animal,” District Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer ordered a former veterinarian as part of her sentence after she was convicted of several counts of animal cruelty on Monday.

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Although this is a dog article, I thought the readers at PoC would enjoy reading about a judge who doesn’t take cruelty to dogs lightly. Even when the defendant claims she became a hoarder due to an undiagnosed thyroid condition.

Debra Clopton,53, was convicted of 22 counts of animal cruelty and one count of practicing veterinary medicine without a license back in 2016.  She was sentenced to four years in jail and was given credit for more than 400 days spent in jail as well as electronic monitoring while she awaited trial.

Public defender Jennifer Burrill argued Clopton should get probation because she had been diagnosed with hypothyroidism. Burrill stated the condition can cause delusions similar to schizophrenics. Because of her medical condition, Clopton had 48 dogs living in her home that was in horrible condition. Sante Fe County prohibits residents from having more than 10 dogs.

Two doctors testified in Clopton’s defense that after the dogs were removed from the home back in 2013 she was diagnosed with hypothyroidism. One of the two doctors stated psychosis was rare.

She had been found not competent to stand trial but was later found competent. Thus the four-year lapse until further sentencing could be handed down.

Clopton claimed she was “remorseful and heartbroken.” The judge didn’t buy into any of it. No medical records were provided and Judge Sommer wasn’t convinced a thyroid-related mental condition could cause Clopton to allow the dogs in her care to suffer. Judge Sommer stated in an interview with Santa Fe New Mexican on Monday at the sentencing

“I didn’t find your testimony at trial credible.”

This wasn’t the first time Clopton had been in trouble with an animal cruelty related charge. Back in 2011 Clopton was charged in Rio Rancho for a rabies vaccine violation and agreed to a plea agreement. She also continued to practice veterinary medicine after losing her license in 2012 saying she didn’t know she was no longer a licensed veterinarian.

Her recent case began in 2013 when neighbors complained to the Sante Fe County Sheriff’s Office of barking at her home on Best View Trail in Edgewood. After attempts to contact her failed the home was raided. Eight dogs were living outside and 40 were living in the home.

The dogs were sick or injured and they were crowded into kennels. Some were fighting. Three dogs had to be humanely euthanized immediately and others were euthanized later because they suffered severe neurological disorders making them unable to stand or walk.

It gets worse, readers. This isn’t the first case I’ve seen where the person accused of animal cruelty refuses to sign over the animals. The Santa Fe Animal Shelter & Humane Society was given the responsibility of caring for the dogs. Public information officer Ben Swan says many of the dogs were feral. Not only that, the shelter can’t spay or neuter dogs unless the owner signs them over. The shelter soon had 70 dogs to care for in their 58 dog facility. Five or more were pregnant when they arrived at the shelter.

After being told by a judge she’d have to pay $27,000 for their care, Clopton eventually signed the dogs over so they could be adopted out. The shelter found homes for the dogs who survived Clopton’s care.

Swan told the Sante Fe New Mexican on Monday that

“This really sends a message to the community that these kind of things will not be tolerated. And that’s what everyone in the animal welfare world really wants people to know.”

Clopton will spend approximately nine more months in jail after being given a 2-year prison sentence and is barred from having contact with animals for the next 10 years. According to this source (please read for MUCH more information), she can’t get closer than 25 feet from dogs and is prohibited from owning any animal.

Mental health counseling has also been ordered.

4 thoughts on ““You will stay 25 feet away so you don’t even get to pet an animal””

  1. Quite simply there needs to be a NO PETS ALLOWED registry and it needs to extend not to the person but to where the person resides also so that family members cannot bring pets into the home or property either. Not even a goldfish.
    Neglect should be added to the list of offenses that can cause loss of the privilege of pet/livestock ownership. The list should be publically viewable like sex offenders are.
    At the end of the day it doesn’t matter why someone harmed animals but to keep them from reoffending ever. So claims of mental illness are handled no different than the sadistic cat killer/hater that posts here so often.

    • I agree! After watching the cases being postponed again and again it’s good to see some real punishment. There was a dog case in SC that was similar and ended up costing the county shelter over $100,000.


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