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Montezuma County DA’s Office drops charges in sheep herd attack

These two dogs were captured after suspected for killing sheep at a ranch on Road 27.6. Charges against the owner of the husky were dropped because of insufficient evidence, according to the Montezuma County Assistant District Attorney. The other dog’s owner could not be identified, and it was euthanized for aggressive behavior. (Courtesy photo)
Case lacked evidence that owner’s dog was responsible for deaths and injuries, assistant district attorney says

Charges against the owner of a dog suspected of killing and injuring multiple sheep in August have been dropped by the 22nd Judicial District Attorney’s Office because of insufficient evidence.

Two uncontrolled dogs are suspected of killing five sheep and injuring several others during separate incidents Aug. 15 in Montezuma County.

Both dogs have since been euthanized.

Ginny Elder and Tim McGaffic had four sheep die during an attack by two dogs on Road 27.6. Several sheep also were injured. Ginny Elder witnessed the attack and captured the two dogs in a shed.

“It was horrific. They had them bunched in a corner and were attacking and attacking,” Elder told The Journal after the attack.

The dogs, a pit bull mix and a husky named Coda, were impounded by the Montezuma County Sheriff’s Office and held at the Cortez Animal Shelter. The husky was later released to its owner.

Earlier that morning, about 4 a.m., two dogs that fit the same description reportedly attacked a sheep herd managed by Paul Lonquich on County Road P.

Aug 31, 2021
Loose dogs in Montezuma County kill and injure sheep

One sheep was euthanized because of its injuries, and another sustained injuries but survived, according to a Sheriff’s Office report.

Sheep were injured by two dogs on Road 27.6 and Road P on Aug. 15. (Courtesy photo)

The owner of the Coda was identified as Andres Antonio Hernandez of Road P. 3. He faced nine charges of owning a dangerous dog causing death or injury, Class 3 misdemeanors, said Assistant District Attorney Will Furse, but all charges have been dropped, and the case was dismissed Nov. 30.

After reviewing the case, Furse said prosecutors did not believe they could prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Coda specifically killed and injured the sheep.

Another dog was involved, and a mountain lion had killed a sheep in the herd on Road 27.6 about the same time, Furse said.

Coda was one of the dogs present around the time of the sheep’s demise, he said, but “we could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the deaths and injuries were attributed to his dog and his dog only.”

Another issue that complicated the case was that when faced with a predator, sheep pile up on top of each other, which can case sheep on the bottom to die or be injured from the hooves and weight of the upper sheep.

According to sheriff reports, the investigation revealed Coda had chewed through its harness at Road P.3 and escaped the day of the incident.

It had been hit by a vehicle on Colorado Highway 145 between its residence and Elder’s, according to the report, and was euthanized by a vet because of its injuries.

The owner of the pit bull mix could not be determined. Because of its aggressive disposition, it was not suitable for adoption and was euthanized, said Jennifer Crouse, director of the Cortez Animal Shelter.

The attack on their sheep herd was traumatic and impacted Elder’s and McGaffic’s sheep dog training business. The loss of sheep and veterinarian bills totaled more than $4,000. Because they use the herd to train sheep dogs, they had to put the training program on hold after the dog attack, McGaffic said.

Tim McGaffic and Ginny Elder talk about several of their sheep being attacked by stray dogs this year. (Jim Mimiaga/The Journal)

Elder and McGaffic want more enforcement of the 2010 county dog-at-large ordinance.

It requires dog owners to keep their dogs under control because of the potential danger to public safety and private property. Violations carry a fine of not more than $1,000.

“This dog that attacked our sheep had gotten out twice before. Dogs running loose in the county is a widespread problem. My argument is that fines are a good incentive for people to keep dogs under control, and sends the message to other dog owners to be responsible and control their dogs,” McGaffic said.

Nowlin said the Sheriff’s Office enforces the county dog-at-large ordinance. Citations are issued or warnings are given depending on the circumstances, he said.

“Copies of the ordinance are given to the owners. We tell them to comply and be responsible pet owners,” Nowlin said.

Two dogs killed several sheep Aug. 15 in Montezuma County. (Courtesy photo)