Packs of loose dogs running in the Polvadera and Lemitar area have been killing chickens and goats. That’s what a string of residents told the Socorro County Board of Commissioners last week.
“It’s getting to be epidemic in the county,” one Polvadera resident said.
Sheriff William Armijo told the commissioners he had invited several people to address the board on their more recent experiences with loose dogs running in packs.
He said within just a few days his office has written seven citations for dogs running at large.
“Peoples’ livestock and their pets are being attacked by dogs,” Armijo said. “It’s become a big issue throughout the county, especially in the Lemitar-Polvadera area, and out in Veguita.
“We’ve gotten an unusual number of complaints the last few weeks about these dogs attacking goats, livestock and family pets,” he said. “We do take it seriously. Seven citations for dogs running at large in just a few days is alarming.”
One Lemitar resident said she has resorted to shooting dogs.
“There are lots of dogs. Packs and packs of dogs. I have personally shot three,” she said. “I had the sheriff out there. I had the state police out there.”
She said she learned where dogs lived and called the state police.
“The state police went over there,” she said. “They talked to the owners, and the dogs were so aggressive the officer came back and told me if they showed up at my place again I had the right to shoot them.
“You guys have got to do something,” she told the board. “I’ve watched Rosales lose cows because they're chasing the calves to death."
A speaker from Polvadera pointed out that people are also at risk.
“We have a lot of kids in and around the area who enjoy riding their bikes and what-not. What I have observed in these dogs is the viciousness,” he said. “And I can still not forget the little girl going out to feed her lambs and finding them dead, and the wild dogs were still there, kind of eyeing her. That’s unacceptable.”
One after another, Lemitar and Polvadera residents stepped up to the podium.
“I lost 42 animals. I have shot 38 dogs,” one said. “Recently I lost 16 goats. I shot that dog.”
He said he couldn’t invest any more money into raising goats. “They’ll just get killed,” he said.
Another from Polvadera said he started using a game camera to take pictures of the attacks.
“Every dog is identifiable,” he said. “These dogs actually dug their way under our coop to get in, so that’s what’s so unusual about it. Having so many animals killed in only two days is unacceptable. A lot of kids in the county are 4H members and raise animals. I think people need to understand that if their dogs are loose and they kill livestock they should be liable.”
Another comment: “When people have seven to eleven dogs...what reason do you need to have seven to eleven dogs? You can’t control them, you can’t keep them in. Fine the owners. Hit them in the pocketbook. Make them pay for it. There’s some revenue for things that you need.”
Board President Martha Salas said she could relate with the situation. When her family felt threatened by vicious dogs when they moved to Bernardo years ago, she said the only solution was to shoot them.
“That got rid of the problem,” she said. “It’s disappointing, because you work hard for your animals, put a lot of money into them,” Salas said. “And it’s awful what is happening with these packs of dogs. It’s the owners of those dogs that need to be held accountable.”
She added that the problem has become countywide, and the ordinance must be looked at.
Armijo agreed, and that he and his deputies will respond to every call.
“We’re gonna’ hold these peoples’ feet to the fire,” he said. “They must be held accountable.”
He admitted the current county ordinance is not easy to prosecute, but that rules are in place.
Highlights of County Ordinance 1998-05:
• Responsible persons shall not allow any domestic animals in their custody to stray.
• No person may keep or harbor domestic animals that demonstrate unprovoked attacks on human beings, or which might have a propensity to attack humans, unless confined so that the animal cannot attack any person.
• The responsible person shall post the enclosure on all sides with prominent notice of the threat posed by the animal confined therein.
• Responsible persons shall not allow any domestic animals in their custody to persistently or continuously bark, howl, or yowl.
• No person may keep domestic animals in conditions or in such numbers so as to result in noxious or offensive odors or accumulations of feces, urine or other bodily wastes, or confine them in such conditions so as to become unmanageable and potentially vicious.
• Responsible persons shall not allow any domestic
animals in their custody to attack animals that are located on their owner's property, confined or under the physical restraint of a responsible person.
The ordinance adds that the county animal control officer “shall destroy any dog he or she finds in the act of pursuing or wounding livestock or wounding and killing poultry or attacking humans.”
A fine of up to $300 and/or imprisonment of no more than ninety days, or both, can be imposed for violating the ordinance
Armijo said he was working on drafting an animal breeding ordinance to address the number of dogs allowed and would work the county's attorney, Adren Nance, before submitting it to the board. He said it would be in line with Chapter 77 of the state code which addresses dangerous dogs.