Paralegal’s love for animals changes lives

El Pasoan Iliana Guzman with her son Sergio Pedroza, 15, at their animal shelter in Chaparral, NM. (Velia Quiroz/

El Pasoan Iliana Guzman with her son Sergio Pedroza, 15, at their animal shelter in Chaparral, NM. (Velia Quiroz/

CHAPARRAL, NM – An animal lover since she was a child, El Pasoan Iliana Guzman now devotes her free time to the care of homeless animals.

The 34-year-old paralegal last year opened her very own animal shelter, a long time dream, and now cares for nearly 100 dogs and cats on her one-and-a-half acre parcel of land in Chaparral, New Mexico. Recently, she rescued several dozen animals that had been removed from their owner because of hoarding.

El Pasoan Iliana Guzman with her son Sergio Pedroza, 15, at their animal shelter in Chaparral, NM. (Velia Quiroz/

El Pasoan Iliana Guzman with her son Sergio Pedroza, 15, at their animal shelter in Chaparral, NM. (Velia Quiroz/

Prior to opening Enchanted Pass Animal Rescue, Guzman would always take abandoned animals into her home and then rehabilitate them until she could find suitable owners.

Although the last year has been a busy time for Guzman and her four children, who also help with the care of the animals, “it’s worth it in the end,” she says.

Every Saturday, she packs her ‘06 Lincoln Mark truck with half a dozen dogs and cats and sets up inside of the PetSmart in Las Cruces in hopes that animal lovers stop by and fall in love with one of the critters. “First we see all the animals going home, then we get to see (the pets) come in to PetSmart shopping with their owners, so that’s very worth it,” she said.

Enchanted Pass currently only counts on the help of two volunteers, who help out occasionally, but the pet caretakers are primarily Guzman’s children, Jonathan Bustillos, 18, Carlos Pedroza, 14, Sergio Pedroza, 15 and Renee Guzman, 8.

After school every day, Sergio cleans the kennels and the yard, feeds the dogs and cats. He also helps volunteer dog trainer Zahn Camacho teach the aggressive dogs to socialize with people and other dogs. Sergio says he wants to become a veterinarian and one day wants to be in charge of Enchanted Pass and continue to make the family’s dream a reality.

“It’s my dream to be a vet so my mom can get the dogs fixed without paying,” he said. “My goal is to build a spay and neuter clinic in the shelter to help control overpopulation to prevent more homeless animals. And I love dogs.”

One of Guzman’s goals is to educate the public about the importance of spaying and neutering their pets to help reduce overpopulation. Adoption fees are $75 including spaying, neutering, microchiping, and providing vaccinations.

Recently, Guzman was able to rescue 47 sick and malnourish dogs from an animal cruelty case in Chaparral. (Velia Quiroz/

Recently, Guzman was able to rescue 47 sick and malnourish dogs from an animal cruelty case in Chaparral. (Velia Quiroz/

Guzman said she was notified by acquaintances last month about the discovery of 208 animals in Chaparral. The animals were sick and malnourished. Some had been stuffed into bags and left inside trashcans. Eventually 50 were euthanized due to aggression. But Guzman was able to rescue 47 dogs and six cats. Half of them are now housed at Enchanted Pass in kennels donated by a local veterinarian. Other organizations and individuals have adopted the remaining abused animals.

Camacho, a trainer at Enchanted Pass, is currently helping to train the dogs. “The dogs were very scared. They wouldn’t come to any human, but now they come to you, they wag their tales they are not afraid of people anymore,” Guzman said.

Guzman also sometimes takes in dogs that are about to be put down by El Paso Animal Services. She works to help find them new homes and a second chance. She receives calls from volunteers at the El Paso Humane Society when a dog is going to be euthanized asking if her shelter can accept the animal. Other times Guzman goes on the animal services website to check what dogs are due to be euthanized.

“I pick the hard to adopt dogs from there because they won’t have a chance,” she said.

Enchanted Pass is a nonprofit organization that does not receive any government assistance or grants. Currently the only financial help that Enchanted Pass receives is from public donations.  But most of the money to run the shelter comes from Guzman’s paycheck that works as a paralegal for a downtown El Paso law office.

Enchanted Pass is home not only to dogs. (Velia Quiroz/

Enchanted Pass is home not only to dogs. (Velia Quiroz/

At Enchanted Pass the smaller well-behaved dogs are allowed to run freely on the property, and when she is present all the dogs get a chance to play together.

“It gets pretty crazy because everybody is just running around the property,” she says. One dog, a black lab named Oscar, “took it upon himself to be the guard dog.” Oscar has been at the shelter for a year and before he was trained was a bit aggressive with other dogs. “We never gave up on him,” she said.

Currently, the dogs are housed in kennels on the land; the cats reside in a mobile home. Guzman plans to build an indoor shelter with kennels and air conditioning to allow the dogs to be confortable in the summer and in the winter. She also wants to add a dog park.

Guzman is also in search of foster pet parents who care for the animals until they are permanently adopted. Dog food and medical need is provided during the foster period.

Enchanted Pass is always in need of volunteers and donations anyone interested can go to the website to request a volunteer application. The public can also call the shelter at (915) 479-2622.

Donations are always welcome; there is a PayPal account that can be used and donations are tax deductible. Items like blankets, dog beds, and cleaning supplies are always needed for the dogs. Dog food is in big demand considering they go through 200 pounds of dog food a week. And now with the addition of the dogs from the hoarding case they are going through 250 pounds a week.

7 thoughts on “Paralegal’s love for animals changes lives

  1. Amazing work!! Thank you so much to Iliana and all her family for saving so many lives!! I truly admire all this organization does every single day!!

  2. Velia:
    Great story. You did an awesome job both the written story and the recorded version. Pictures are great too. Keep up the fantastic stories!

  3. Very touching story. It’s always nice to hear about people going above and beyond in service to our best friends. Thanks for the work you do.

  4. Incredible work Velia! Thanks for publishing this inspiring story for myself and others to read I’m thankful to know that there are people like Iliana out in our community doing all they can to help these animals in need.

  5. I believe the hoarder you speak of is Felix and I assure you if there was a thin dog up there it either just arrived or was sick perhaps with worms. I supplied Felix with as much food as he needed. Also other agencies in El Paso, you might be shocked who, donated food to him. People who know Felix realized he has had a miserable life born one of 13 children, his mom put him out to turn tricks at age 7. The night he was arrested he called me it was around midnight and I could hear popping in the back ground I thought “fireworks” suggesting the Sheriff’s deputies were killing the dogs and neighbors I spoke to then said they killed by shooting, about 30 and strangled 10. A man named John Seacrest (sp?) called Sheriff Head to ask him to stop the killings and he did but it was stated if the dogs were not out within 24 hours they’d kill the rest. Felix boarded dogs so people who would pay him perhaps had their dog killed. Felix paid veterinarians $1000 a month he got from Madonna. His vets were Dr Starr and Dr Carver why were their names not mentioned in the slanderous things Felix was said to have done and the ‘vet’ confirmed” You say you took how many dogs that were his?? He had at that time experienced , at night, people driving up and throwing litters over his fence so this has to have been someone who knew where he had his kennel and a grudge or envy. They came at night , someone was shuttling them over his fence sick. The evidence used to paint Felix, if it exists, was stolen out of his home when he was off the scene in jail. Any thing Felix needed I supplied for years and he really tried to get his animals vaccinated and fixed. I see a man who perhaps needs psycho therapist but does not deserve to be in jail. This is the 2nd kennel destroyed up there a couple of years ago Father Ashley, an Episcopal priest had his kennel wiped out by people who took a couple of photos after climbing a locked kennel of 2 dead birds. He did not have his affairs for nonprofit in order. He was ignorant of the law but a good person, he wept in his church while they killed over 100 animals and two vehicles were there AR and HS from El Paso. Someone set Felix up I think. I am a firm believer what comes around goes around, the very same fate awaits those who wiped Felix out it may take years but it will manifest.

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