Socorro tightens up on pet leash laws

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Several more pet leash law signs were posted in January around the Tech campus area as a result of numerous complaints and one dog attack incident, according to Campus Police Chief George Murillo, Jr.

City ordinance requires people walking their dogs to keep them leashed, said Socorro Municipal Judge Frances Cases.

“All dogs within city limits have to be on a leash,” she said. “It’s the law.”

Murillo said campus police will enforce the city’s leash law on Tech property.

“We’ve had a lot of complaints about loose dogs, so we want to make people realize there is an ordinance and people can be cited,” he said. “The campus police will enforce the ordinance. When you get cited, you can be fined.”

Leash law citations have to be taken care of in person at court.

Judge Cases said no one has been cited into Municipal Court for a leash law violation yet, but offenders could face a hefty fine.

“For a first-time offense of allowing a dog to run loose on campus, (the owner) will probably get a warning,” she said. But then, the dog will be subject to police surveillance. We’re going to monitor that dog,” Cases said. The police will be authorized to do random checks at the home to be sure the dog is appropriately restrained by a structure, a chain or a leash.

If the person gets a second citation, Cases will impose a fine &#151 probably about $100 &#151 although she might fine repeat offenders as much as $300.

Murillo said the problem of loose dogs on campus has been on his mind for awhile, but it was a Faculty Hill resident who spurred the department into action.

“We’ve been talking about getting the signs up for years,” he said. “Catharine Stewart-Roache called, so we tried to push it, and Tech administration approved. She walks a lot and was concerned about (the loose dog problem),” he said.

Loose dogs harassing people on campus was also a factor in the beefed-up leash law enforcement effort.

Three dogs running loose aggressively approached an officer jogging on campus three months ago; she was able to fend off the dogs, and notified Murillo.

The city’s animal control officer was unable to capture them. Later, the dogs chased a bicyclist on campus. Luckily, a campus policeman was able to block the dogs from attacking the bicyclist with his patrol car, but then one dog turned on the officer.

“The officer had to shoot it,” Murillo said. The other two dogs have not been seen since the first dog was killed, he said.

Murillo said leash-law signs have been posted around the campus athletic field for years, but until recently, campus police had not been actively warning people.

“Now, we’re getting a little stricter,” he said. “We’re coming up to people and warning them. I have seen a reduction of loose dogs.”

Judge Cases said she is seeing more citations for dogs running loose in the city in recent months, although none have involved incidents on the Tech campus.

“Citizens are complaining, and the city is putting pressure on staff to enforce the law,” she said.