After an attack about a month ago on an Edgewood couple by a “group of approximately 4 pit bull type” and three smaller dogs, residents in the area are pushing for a ban on a whole category of breeds—among other proposed changes.
Edgewood Mayor John Bassett said Tuesday that a presentation will be made with proposed changes at its Dec. 21 meeting; he said a public hearing and decision on the issue would likely be in mid-January.
According to the police and animal control reports, the dogs’ owner and the man who was attacked both suffered bites trying to separate the dogs.
At a town council meeting after the attack, a parade of residents expressed their fears of “pit bulls,” especially on behalf of children, with many saying they no longer feel safe in their neighborhood.
At last week’s meeting, many of those residents returned, armed with data about “Molosser” breeds, and urging the town council to enact what is called a “breed ban,” among other suggested changes.
Edgewood’s current animal control ordinance is based on a state law called the Dangerous Dog Act, which defines “dangerous” and “potentially dangerous” dogs based on behavior. A dog deemed “dangerous” or “potentially dangerous” is then the subject of stricter regulation, for example, in containment and fencing.
It is already illegal for dogs to run at large in Edgewood, and the owners of the dogs in question was cited for having “unenclosed premises” and six counts of “running at large.”
Additionally, one dog, “Diesel,” is now classed as “a potentially dangerous animal” and his owners must comply with requirements including containment. That’s according to a court document naming Pamela Robledo as the animals’ owner.
The police and animal control reports both indicate that the seven dogs involved in the attack could freely pass through a hole in the fence around their yard.
Timothy Fleming, a nearby resident, proposed a ban on what he called “Molosser class dogs,” based on restrictions he said are already in place at Kirtland Air Force Base.
“Molosser” describes scores of large and muscular dog breeds, according to molosserdogs.com, including Mastiffs, sheepdogs of various types, Bulldogs, Boxers, Rottweilers, Bloodhounds, Malamutes, Huskies, Greyhounds, St. Bernards, Newfoundlands and the American Pit Bull Terrier.
Banning dogs in the “Molosser class” would reduce the severity of attacks when they do occur, Fleming reasoned, suggesting that the town might include “Molosser” dogs in its definition of “potentially dangerous” animals.
Fleming also suggested requiring people owning “Molosser” dogs to provide stronger enclosures including 10-foot fences, or pens enclosed on top and “designed to prevent digging under.”
Fleming also proposed “mandatory impounding” of any animal that bites a person, pet or livestock.
Edgewood Police Chief Ron Crow suggested language that would give police and animal control officers the option to impound an animal if they think it is warranted, rather than a “wide thrown out net” mandating impoundment.
Bassett noted that “700 cities” have breed-specific legislation; Fleming said that included the Maryland town where he used to live.
After Fleming said he likes cougars, but can’t own a cougar because it is a dangerous animal, Councilor Sherry Abraham pointed out that cougars reside nearby at Wildlife West Nature Park without endangering townspeople.
Fleming cited a girl in Tijeras who was attacked, which led to the Village instituting a now decades-old ban on “pit bulls.” That ordinance was under attack in Tijeras this week after the Village sent a letter to a resident saying it would impound and euthanize her son’s service dog.
Other changes sought in Edgewood will likely center on the number of animals a person can own. The town’s ordinance currently allows 10 cats and dogs, as long as no more than four of them are “intact,” and that number can be extended to 15.
That allowed number is higher than surrounding communities, most of which limit the combined number of dogs and cats to five.
Crow said his department will provide localized statistics on dog attacks. He added, “A breed ban has enforcement issues,” and said a search warrant can’t be enforced for a misdemeanor case.
“Do we have a lot of what we would consider vicious dogs?” Abraham asked.
Animal Control Officer Mike Ring said that from 2010 through today, “most have not been very serious bites.” In that time frame there have been 49 dog bites total, he said, with breeds all over, “from Chihuahua to Mastiff.”
Ring cited a serious bite in 2006 in a case that was taken over by Santa Fe County, involving four dogs, of which two were identified, one as a “pit bull” and the other a St. Bernard.
Abraham asked how many dogs in town are designated “dangerous” under the town’s ordinance. Ring said there are two.
Resident Rey Fulwiler suggested adding reporting forms to the town’s website to allow people to report “aggressive dogs” online. He also suggested tying the number of animals allowed to the size of a property.
“Ten’s a lot, and fifteen’s a lot more,” Fulwiler said. “You might want to look at that.”
Abraham asked who would pay for DNA testing to prove the breed of a dog.
Councilor Rita Loy Simmons noted that dogs have a “territorial imperative,” and said dogs don’t recognize property lines.
Edgewood veterinarian Vickie Averhoff said a breed ban as described at the meeting would “outlaw half the dogs in Edgewood.” She opposes a breed-specific ban, and said “problem dogs” are those who are left outside without any socialization and those who are chained up or kept in small enclosures.
Leota started working for The Independent in 2006, working her way up through the ranks. An employee buyout in 2010 led to her ownership of the newspaper. Leota has served on the board of the N.M. Press Association, and is currently its First Vice President. She is passionate about health and wellness, especially mental health, and loves making art. She can be reached at [email protected]