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Loose dogs in Montezuma County kill and injure sheep

These two dogs were captured after killing sheep at a ranch on County Road 27.6 outside Cortez. The owner of the husky was cited for unlawful ownership of a dangerous dog. (Courtesy photo)
One owner cited; both dogs euthanized

Two uncontrolled dogs are suspected of killing five sheep and injuring several others during separate incidents in Montezuma County Aug. 15, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

Both dogs have since died, and citations have been issued to the owner of one dog.

At 6:20 a.m., Ginny Elder went out to feed her animals on County Road 27.6 and witnessed a black-and-white husky and a brown pit bull mix attacking her penned sheep.

Three sheep were killed, and a fourth died a week later from its injuries, according to Elder and a Sheriff’s Office report. Several injured sheep are being treated.

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

“It was horrific. They had them bunched in a corner and were attacking and attacking,” Elder said.

Earlier that morning, about 4 a.m., two dogs that fit the same description reportedly attacked a sheep herd on County Road P. One sheep was euthanized because of its injuries, and another sustained injuries but survived, according to a Sheriff’s Office report.

Elder captured both dogs after they attacked her sheep and placed them in the tack room of a barn. The dogs were impounded by the Montezuma County Sheriff’s Office and held at the Cortez Animal Shelter.

The owner of the husky was identified as Andres Antonio Hernandez. He was issued two citations for alleged unlawful ownership of a dangerous dog, class 3 misdemeanors. The dog had chewed through his harness attached to a tie-out cable on Road P.3.

Assistant District Attorney Will Furse said the office is reviewing the charges and might amend them based on the number of livestock killed and injured.

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

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.

Dogs impounded at the animal shelter can be released to the owner by a deputy order with the stipulation it be properly contained.

The husky was released to Hernandez through a deputy order, according to the incident report.

The husky had been captured twice before for being at large in January and December and was impounded at the animal shelter, Crouse said. Both times it was claimed and released back to the owner.

According to the sheriff’s report, on Aug. 19, a deputy responded again to Elder’s residence on Road 27.6 for a sheep that had been attacked and killed that morning.

There were no witnesses, but it was suspected the same husky might have been involved, according to the report.

Further investigation revealed the husky had again chewed through its harness at Road P.3 that day and escaped. It had been hit by a vehicle on Colorado Highway 145 between its residence and Elder’s, according to the report.

The husky was euthanized by a vet because of its injuries.

The attack on their sheep herd was traumatic and impacted their sheep dog training business, said Elder and her business partner, Tim McGaffic.

Tim McGaffic and Ginny Elder talk about the sheep attacks. (Jim Mimiaga/The Journal)

The loss of sheep and veterinarian bills totaled more than $4,000. They use the sheep herd to train sheep dogs, but have put the training program on hold because of the dog attack, McGaffic said.

Elder and McGaffic are urging 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.