On the Lack of Protection from Santa Fe County

The Santa Fe County Sheriff’s department (and therefore Animal Control) states that their mission is to

1. “protect and serve the people of Santa Fe County,”

2. is “dedicated to enhancing the public safety and welfare of the communities we serve” and

3. to uphold and enforce the law.

On August 23rd 2019, at approx. 6pm, the neighbor (we’ll call FY) let his dogs run at large. These dogs broke through Sarah Leamy’s fence/gate onto her property, attacked and killed her dog, Rosie. (Witness statements are available.) This isn’t some random one-off dog fight. This is the predictable end result of the pattern of a repeat offender, one who knowingly owns and raises numerous packs of dangerous dogs. Each pack becomes vicious, and are let run at large, are unfixed, no rabies, no licenses, no restraints, and as such threaten the community. FYs dogs have attacked humans, horses, and dogs. They have killed two grown dogs and a puppy.

The common denominator is the owner and not the specific dogs.

For the last ten years, FY has raised such dangerous dogs that have created this ongoing unsafe environment. His dogs have repeatedly attacked the following neighbors and tenants, including Cundiff, Skorheim, Polly, McIntosh, Reed, Richard and Sandy Duval, Mo McGarry, Sarah Graham, and from 2008-2019 Sarah Leamy.

For the last ten years, they have all called Animal Control (AC) and the Sheriff’s Office (SO) asking for help, threatened, fearing for their children, families, animals and even their own lives. In the last 11 months, Leamy alone has called Dispatch eight times, scared by FY’s dogs and the threat they posed. These neighbors have provided Animal Control detailed complaints, photos, even paw prints, and notarized witness statements in the belief that the county would protect them.

The Santa Fe County though has failed in their duty to protect, serve, or enhance the public safety of this community.

For the five cases when AC actually filed criminal charges against FY, AC failed to appear at the last hearing dates thus the charges were repeatedly dropped, and FY walked away with a clean record, free to start again with a new pack of inbred pitbulls, raising them to be guard dogs yet letting them threaten lives.

SF County failed to prosecute despite the ability to do so under the Dangerous Dog Act NMSA 1978 77-1A-1-6. The definitions within this act clearly label the actions and threat posed by FY’s dogs (again, this is a pattern with different packs of pitbulls with FY being the common denominator), see Section 77-1A-2 B, C, D 1-3. SF County failed to seek the stated penalties for the prohibited acts of 77-1A-6 A3b, with this most recent death as a result. The penalties under 77-1A-6B state that who ever violates these prohibited acts (as FY has done repeatedly with AC having the evidence to prosecute), shall be sentenced (Sections 31-19-1 NMSA 1978) as a misdemeanor for the first time and subsequent offences become a fourth degree felony (Sections 31-18-15 NMSA 1978).

Under this same Section C, it states that an owner of a potentially dangerous dog that causes serious injury or death to a domestic animal, without provocation, is guilty of a fourth degree felony (as above).

Rosie’s death was unprovoked, within her fenced yard. This then is a fourth degree felony.

In order to prosecute under the Dangerous Dog Act calls for F.1), AC needs to prove that the owner knew of the propensity of a dog to inflict serious injury. FY knew – as did Animal Control – given the number of complaints and threats within the last year alone.

In 2011, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, FY was charged with owning vicious dogs, running at large, without rabies or licenses. There was no mention of the Dangerous Dog Act in those criminal charges. Each time, the case was either dismissed because the Prosecutor or ACO ‘failed to appear,’ and in the last case, the Prosecutor dropped the charges at the final hearing date without reason.

Thus, the attacks, threats, and deaths have not become misdemeanors on FY’s record, which would have built up to felonies by now. The lack of convictions in court is despite all the evidence and only because the representative of the Santa Fe County failed to appear. Therefore, it’s clear that the county has not used all legal procedures, ordinances, nor the Dangerous Dog Act to protect and serve their community of Madrid, NM.

As a result of the county’s gross negligence and inability or reluctance to prosecute FY within the full scope of the law, he removes one pack, appeases the Animal Control Officers, and within a year, has bred and raised another pack of dogs to be vicious, dangerous and a threat to the neighborhood, with no penalties or record for his actions.

As a result, Amy Skorheim sold her home, knowing it was unsafe to raise a family there.

As a result, Katie Reed moved out of Cundiff’s rental property.

Andy Kolb, Leamy’s tenant, left 2 weeks after FY’s dogs killed Rosie within the yard, and who then threatened him through the fence that following morning Aug 24th.

As a result, Sarah Graham, another of Leamy’s tenant in 2017-8, broke her year-long rental agreement after her dog was attacked, the case taken to court and then dropped by the prosecutor. Again, she did not feel safe as a pregnant woman.

As a result, Mo McGarry’s dog died after FYs dogs attacked Lulu on her own property, she has also lost Airbnb income, with renters leaving after witnessing Rosie’s death on Aug 23, 2019.

As a result, Leamy stopped renting through Airbnb after another serious attack on Duval’s horses in 2015.

As a result of the county’s inability to protect Leamy or the neighbors, she is suffering acute PTSD, unable to work or focus, insomnia and panic attacks. The Sheriff’s and Animal Control’s suggestion that she carry a gun and shoot is proof enough that they agree she is not safe, within her fenced yard, walking the rest of her 20 acres, or even using the road to reach the highway. (Their advice to shoot the dogs of a man with a long record of violence, drug and gun issues is itself not an act of protection or safety.)

The reality that she needs to be armed 24/7 in order to be safe and protected is unacceptable.

As a result of Rosie’s death, Leamy’s career will be affected. She is an internationally known writer, photographer, cartoonist, publisher and presenter, whose focus has been on traveling with her dogs, Rosie and Harold. Her publishing house, Wild Dog Press, features Rosie. Her author’s photos, business cards, five books, and two in-progress manuscripts, blog, social media platform, all feature Rosie. Her classes and presentations at Overland Expo 2015, 2016, 2019 and the arranged class in 2020, all feature Travels with Rosie.

She has lost rental income, and Airbnb business income. She can’t in good conscience rent out her home nor sell the 20 acres, studio and off-grid home.

After Rosie’s death within her fenced yard, has reinforced that she is not safe at home. As stated earlier, Sarah Leamy is suffering from severe PTSD. With good cause, Leamy fears for her other domestic animals. She is scared of other people’s dogs. She fears for her life.

The question is what will come out of this? Can we work together to place an injunction on FY to stop him maintaining “a private nuisance” that is the ongoing threat of him raising vicious dogs? Can we help Animal Control follow through with court cases given that they have the required evidence and proof of him being a repeat offender? Will we be able to edit the Santa Fe Animal Ordinances to clarify and strengthen the threat of such dangerous dogs?

And what can be done for Leamy to be safe? As Reed said at a community meeting with Animal Control, “we all know that if this had been in your neighborhood,” (and she pointed at each of the four officers) “you would have stopped this from escalating. And don’t forget, Rosie was my friend.

In Rosie’s name then, let’s work together to keep others safe.

 

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