Can you imagine returning home from a night out with loved ones only to discover that your pets are missing? You might assume that there had been an escape, maybe through a small window opening or an ajar door. Certainly nobody had been in your house while you were gone… or had they?
This frightening scenario has been a reality for over 60 families living in the suburbs of Alberquerque, NM. Local officials suspect that the pet disappearances have been the work of 59 year old animal activist Debbie Swenerton (an several unknown accomplices). Swenerton faces several charges, including animal cruelty, after allegedly ejecting two pitbulls from her moving car, all while the dogs’ frantic owners were engaged in a desperate pursuit. Both dogs face only minor injuries.
Authorities believe that Swenerton and unknown accomplices have been burglarizing homes in an effort to kidnap the family pets. Following the kidnappings, the pets are thought to have been distributed amongst rescue and adoption organizations around the state. She has a history of notifying police regarding dogs that have been put outside by their owners. When the police have responded, they often find plenty of food, water, and shelter.
However, friend and animal activist Barbara Tellier has stated that the case against Swenerton is nothing more than a set-up. She claims that the police are all too ready to apprehend who they consider to be a minor annoyance. Tellier believes that Swenerton’s heart is in the right place.
When authorities arrived at Swenerton’s home, they found 19 dogs that were all registered to her. There was one dog that was registered to another family, however. Strangely enough, the family was approached by a woman who was concerned for the animal’s treatment immediately prior to its disappearance.
Over-zealous animal activists such as Swenerton pose interesting ethical questions. Should Swenerton have minded her own business since other peoples’ animals are their own private property? Is it the responsibility of the individual in our society to alert authorities to incidents such as these? How many times have you passed a vehicle with a panting dog inside and all the windows rolled up? If you observed that a neighbor was keeping dogs for fighting purposes (like the neighbors of Michael Vick’s Surrey County property might have), is it your responsibility to call the police?
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