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Pit Bulls feared victim of mistreatment

Austin Richardson
Leadville Chronicle/Austin Richardson
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Fifth Judicial Judge Russell Granger has ordered Ruben Pacheco, Leadville resident, to remit a list of names and phone numbers of those receiving pit bulls by Tuesday, Nov. 12. Under an order from the Lake County Planning and Zoning Commission, six pit bulls are to be completely moved from the property because the parcel is not properly zoned for housing a kennel operation.

Keith Roehr, a veterinarian with the Colorado State Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Animal Protection, said there was clearly a breeding operation in existence on the property, and last Friday issued Pacheco a “cease and desist” order. The order states Pacheco would have to not have more than 15 dogs without a breeding license and not have more that two litters each year.

“I don’t to have anything to hide,” Pacheco said to the court last Friday. Deputy District Attorney Tim Ecklund asked the court to get the names and addresses of the dog’s new owners, so the county could verify the whereabouts and condition of the pit bulls once housed on the land.



The property now vacated is a stark contrast from just a few weeks ago. At one time, there were more than 20 pit bulls on the site. By removing the animals from the property, the perception of what’s going on in the woods south of Leadville may have changed.

Pacheco’s neighbor, a mere 100 yards from the center of Pacheco’s property, has been tired of the nightly barking since the dogs arrived in February. Over the course of several months, Cindi Gillespie has been hounding the Lake County Sheriff’s department for some satisfaction. Since mid-March, Gillespie hasn’t had many nights of undisturbed rest.



A trashed out shack, dog food bags and random chain-link fence sections litter the property. A chain-link fence kennel had been disassembled, taken down and put on a pile near a half-full, makeshift trash bins haphazardly located near an entrance to the property.

Located only about a mile from U.S. Highway 24, pine trees provide an anchor for the dog’s 15- to 20-footchains holding them secure. Circles of beaten-down forest floor have been endlessly paced, the weight of the chains scraping clean each animal’s territory.

Upon inspection, the animals aren’t subject to malnutrition. There’s little doubt, in the mind of the owner and various investigators, that the dogs aren’t being fed. At issue now are charges having to do with illegal kennel operations and violations of land-use permits. Those violations have left the property vacant of the once thriving pit bull colony.



Gillespie’s complaints to police have been mainly that the dogs are barking all night long, preventing her from having peace overnight. Reports of Pacheco removing the voiceboxes of some of the dogs to quell their barking are grim.

Fifth Judicial District Attorney Michael Goodbee has filed three misdemeanor charges against Pacheco for kennel violations. Lake County Attorney Seth Murphy has filed a zoning ordinance against Pacheco. Under the property’s current property classification, Agricultural/Residential, there is no provision for operating an animal care, boarding, sales operation on the property. Pacheco failed to meet all the requirements and file all the paperwork necessary to obtain a conditional-use permit to allow the operation in which he currently seems embroiled.

However, investigators quoted on Denver’s KUSA 9News Web site indicated they saw evidence the dogs had been injured in ways common to dog fighting.

On Monday, Nov. 4, Lake County Sheriff’s Deputy Michael Martschinske took a statement from Gillespie regarding one of many crank phone calls she’s been receiving as a result of speaking out against what she perceives is animal cruelty.

According to Gillespie, the prank phone caller said, “watch out what happens today, if the dogs are removed you will be held responsible.”

Ironically, Pacheco was on his property when the call came in, apparently removing some of his animals to a different location. Gillespie said he doesn’t believe Pacheco made the ominous phone call, but is reporting the calls to authorities to make sure local law enforcement agencies are aware of the gravity of her situation. Gillespie has received several anonymous phone calls over the past week, generically threatening her.

Martschinske told Gillespie he would “pass on the information to the other officers” and indicated an increase in patrols to the area over the next few days.

Since the story is being followed closely by a Denver television station, Gillespie has been flooded with e-mails. Most of the correspondence, she says, indicates shock and outrage at the conditions under which the pit bulls are being held. She said most of the e-mails are from pit bull owners, saying what great dogs they are and how it is wrong to raise the breed for fighting.

“I have nothing against pit bulls,” Gillespie said, “it’s the way they are raised that makes them mean.”

Her next example of what’s wrong with having a pit bull colony in the woods next door was scary. Gillespie was taking care of some outdoor chores when one of her neighbor’s dogs rounded the corner of her house, locked eyes with her and chased her into the garage. Gillespie’s eyes were wide as she explained how she could hear the dog growling just outside her garage, narrowly escaping what could’ve been a life-threatening situation.

Gillespie said the dog continued to circle the house until the owner showed up to contain the animal.

Pending investigations and continued scrutiny will be the order of the day for Pacheco until he either complies with all the regulations set by the state and county law enforcement or the dogs are euthanized after being determined to have been trained for fighting.


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