Dogs at large cause residents concern

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The Socorro City Council heard from people who are tired of being attacked by dogs running at large during the council’s regular meeting Monday.

During the public forum portion of the meeting, Catharine Stewart-Roache and Kathleen LeFebre expressed concern about stray dogs and dogs at large in the city.

LeFebre said she has lived in the city about 50 years and has always noticed issues with stray dogs. She now has to go walking with a child who has a seizure disorder, which becomes particularly difficult when they encounter dogs at large.

“It’s very difficult to try to control somebody’s loose dog while you’re holding onto a disabled person,” LeFebre said. “And equally difficult to try not to step in the droppings that they’ve left behind.”

Stewart-Roache said she has lived in Socorro 10 years and is a member of Striders and Riders, a club for running and bicycling enthusiasts. She said she has been bitten twice in a little over a year — once in the county, and most recently in the city. She said the city fined the dog’s owner $30 for the dog that bit her, but the fine was suspended, although a second fine assessed for dogs roaming at large was not suspended.

Stewart-Roache said she talked to police, and records indicate 154 dog complaints have been reported in Socorro over the last five years.

Stewart-Roache said no medical treatment is available in Socorro on weekends except for the emergency room. The last time she was bitten, which was on a weekend, her emergency room bill was over $1,000. She said the first time she was bitten, she thought she could take care of the wound herself but it wouldn’t heal. It took three months to heal once she started taking antibiotics prescribed by a doctor, who said dog bites and nips are “very bad” and likely to get infected.

Stewart-Roache said the city has leash laws, but they are not enforced. She asked the council to talk to police and animal control personnel, and possibly form a committee to address the problem.

“Report it when the dogs are loose,” Stewart-Roache advised everyone. “Just report it and report it.”

Stewart-Roache said she and LeFebre have made some progress in the county by holding their cellphones out when they are surrounded by barking dogs. When law enforcement takes action, she said, sometimes owners leash their dogs.

Stewart-Roache distributed a list of recommendations to the council:

  • Direct officers to regularly ticket the owners of dogs at large.
  • Direct officers to ensure vaccination records on dogs are current, and follow up by checking animal control records.
  • Form a board with police to meet with the cycling, running and walking communities to discuss solutions. The board would also indicate where problems persist, such as Park Street, Reservoir, the Tech area and by the fire academy.

Councilor Donald Monette, who chaired the meeting in Mayor Ravi Bhasker’s absence, advised Stewart-Roache that the city couldn’t take action on the matter that night because it was not placed on the agenda as an action item.

City Clerk Pat Salome noted a loose dog can take a lot of resources to capture. He said people should always report an address when confronted by a loose dog, but often owners deny owning the dog when there’s a problem.

“Even though it appears to be an animal problem, it’s really a people problem,” Salome said.

Stewart-Roache recommended people remain on the scene when they call in a dog complaint so officers can be told exactly which dog is the problem. Salome said that is a good idea, as long as the person isn’t in harm’s way by doing so.

LeFebre said if dog owners have to pay fines a few times for their dogs running at large, they would start taking the issue more seriously.

 

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