A 46-year-old Hesperus woman has been charged with more than 100 counts of animal cruelty after a lengthy investigation into the mistreatment of animals on her property in southwestern La Plata County resulted in a massive seizure last week.
Elizabeth Miera faces 105 counts of cruelty to animals. Her first court appearance is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Dec. 20 in La Plata County court.
Miera signed her last name on the citation as “Jackson.” She did not return The Durango Herald’s call seeking comment.
On Nov. 15, about 110 animals – including dogs, a cat, pigs, goats, sheep, horses, a burro, one duck, chickens and cattle – were seized from Miera’s property in southwestern La Plata County.
According to a La Plata County news release, the seizure was based on a “lengthy investigation based on animal cruelty allegations” that included the assistance of multiple state agencies, as well as Southern Ute Rangers and Alaska Equine Rescue.
Since the seizure, authorities have been tight-lipped in releasing additional information. Calls to La Plata County Animal Control Director Travis Woehrel and 6th Judicial District Attorney Christian Champagne on Monday were not returned.
As a result, it is unclear what penalties the DA’s Office is seeking.
According to Colorado law, an animal cruelty charge is typically a Class I misdemeanor, which carries a minimum sentence of six months in prison or a $500 fine, or both.
That would mean, in theory, Miera faces a possible minimum sentence of more than 52 years in prison and a $52,000 fine.
However, Juliet Piccone, a Denver attorney who specializes in animal law, said courts usually exercise discretion and impose alternative sentences, such as community service or other corrective actions through plea agreements.
“There have been some other pretty big busts across the state,” Piccone said. “But this is bad.”
Because authorities failed to return the Herald’s calls, it is also unclear Monday the possible fate of the 100-plus animals that were taken from Miera’s property. In similar cases, Piccone said Animal Control would set a bond for the animals’ release.
State law also says that an owner may request a hearing to challenge the seizure and impoundment of their animals within 10 days after the date of impoundment. It was unknown Monday if Miera requested a hearing. The deadline would be Nov. 25
La Plata County spokeswoman Megan Graham said last week the animals are being cared for. At least two of the dogs that were taken from the residence had received much-needed grooming from The Dapper Dog, a local grooming business.