Overzealous animal rescuers behind at least 60 dog-nappings in N.M., authorities say

This photo taken on Thursday Nov. 29, 2012 in Moriarty, NM, shows one of two pit bulls tied up outside the mobile home where an alleged animal rescuer turned dog napper is accused of stealing two pit bulls. The home?s resident told sheriff?s officials she came home from work to find the woman taking her dogs. She said the woman then threw the two dogs from her moving vehicle when she gave chase. (AP Photo/Jeri Clausing)
Jeri Clausing
A pit bull is tied up outside the Moriarty, N.M. mobile home of alleged dog-napper Debbie Swenerton
Jeri Clausing/APimages

(CBS/AP) MORIARTY, N.M. - A New Mexico woman has been arrested and accused of stealing two pit bulls in a community east of Albuquerque.  Authorities believe Debbie Swenerton, 59, is an overzealous animal rescuer turned serial dog-napper. 

Several families in rural communities in the same area say their dogs have vanished from inside houses, behind locked fences and outdoor kennels.

Roughly 60 dogs in the area were reported missing in the past few years and Edgewood animal control officer Mike Ring says the Nov. 16 arrest of Swenerton "really cracked the case."

Ring says he suspects Swenerton could be part of a network of activists who are concerned about the treatment of animals in rural areas, where many dogs are tied up, live outside or roam freely.

Swenerton's attorney calls the charges ridiculous.