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July 2024

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Courtesy Photo Natalie Montoya shared images of a dog that jumped two fences to get to her family’s chicken coop on N. Kiowa Road

Multiple Dog Attacks on Livestock Reported in Questa

There have been multiple dog attacks on livestock reported in Questa via social media. As many as seven attacks have been reported, on a variety of animals including lambs, goats, ducks, chickens, and cows. While the attacks are being reported on social media, only one of these attacks have been reported to the Questa Police Department.

Village Councilman Jason Gonzalez took to social media to share a stern warning, encouraging dog owners to lock their dogs up or they could be shot for attacking livestock. His post came after discovering that his own goats were killed in early June. “I posted the initial message in rage because I had just found my two goats dead,” Councilman Gonzalez said in an interview with the Questa del Rio News. “In reality, I just need people to understand that allowing their dogs to run loose is a problem and it’s now affecting locals in our community and it’s affecting our livestock.”

Taos County, along with the Village of Questa, have ordinances regulating the provision of animals, which falls in line with the New Mexico Statute Chapter 77 Article 1, Section 77-1-2, stating: “If any dog shall kill or injure any livestock, the owner or keeper of such dog shall be liable for all damages that may be sustained thereby, to be recovered by the party so injured before any court having competent jurisdiction, and it shall be unlawful to keep such dog after it is known that the dog is liable to kill livestock, and it shall be the duty of the owner to kill, or have killed, the dog upon order of the court after a finding that the dog has killed or injured livestock, and provided further, that it shall be the right of any owner of livestock so killed or injured by the actions of any dog to kill the dog while it is upon property controlled by the owner of the livestock.”

While Gonzalez’s social media post may have raised eyebrows of some, the law as cited proves he is indeed accurate in warning people that if their dogs kill or injure livestock, the dogs could be legally killed if caught on the property of the livestock owner during or immediately after the act.

We spoke with a dog owner whose dog has been suspected of attacking Gonzalez’s goats. We are choosing not to identify her as the attacks have not been confirmed that it was her dog and she isn’t currently facing legal repercussions for the allegations. “Our dog has been tied up since that allegation and yet, dogs are continuing to attack livestock, so that is why I do not believe it was our dog,” she said. “Our dog is friendly and isn’t aggressive. He didn’t have blood on him after that attack and we are keeping him home to ensure he isn’t accused of future attacks.”

Dogs running loose in New Mexico communities is not uncommon. The vast open area provides plenty of space for animals to run and live free. The recent uptick in dog attacks on livestock is an indication, however, that tighter regulations on free-roaming animals may be needed. A big challenge to this issue, however, is that many local shelters are at capacity and unable to take stray dogs brought into their custody, leaving local jurisdictions with few options on what to do with free-roaming dogs.

Mayor John Ortega says he understands locals’ frustration. “Coming from a family of ranchers who know the challenges of keeping your animals safe, I want to extend my sincere condolences to anyone who has lost their animals due to attacks on their livestock.” He goes on to acknowledge this problem is a complex one. “Unfortunately, this is not solely a Questa issue. Communities across Taos County experience these types of problems as well,” he says. “It’s important for us to work together, united as a community to solve this issue. Keep your dogs on your property. Spay and neuter your animals. Being a dog owner requires responsibility and we need to work together to make our community safe for livestock owners, children, everyone,” he continued.

We reached out to the Taos County Sheriff’s Office. According to the website, there are only three animal protection officers to serve the entire Taos County area. As of print time, we didn’t hear back from the Sheriff’s Office.

On Tuesday, June 11, the Village of Questa held its regular council meeting and the stray dog issues were discussed. Councilman Jason Gonzalez said, “I am glad to see we as a Village are taking some steps to address the issue. It’s not going to be fixed overnight, but it’s a step in the right direction.”

Mayor Ortega says lack of funding and personnel are big challenges for the Village of Questa to hire their own animal protection officers. This isn’t deterring him and other Questa leadership from finding solutions to improve the stray animal issue for Questa residents and livestock owners. “We’re looking at several options, but in the meantime, we need to start with keeping our dogs contained to our property. That is going to be a big way to reduce the risk of future attacks.”