ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Nearly 250 sheep killed by dogs on the loose have left a New Mexico rancher devastated and angry. “Out of 300 sheep, we have less than 50 left,” said Ronald Garcia, an El Rito sheep rancher. His ranch has been passed down in his family for generations.
“I count 400 years. That’s how long my ancestors have been coming to raise sheep in this valley,” said Garcia. The sheep that are left on the ranch are badly injured and some are barely hanging on. He said over the last few weeks, nearby dogs have been able to jump over a nearly six-foot fence to attack his sheep, at least four times.
“The anger and the frustration is not even describable,” said Garcia. “I wake up hearing sheep crying for their babies who are dead.” He said the sheep broke a gate and corral trying to escape the dog attack. The Rio Arriba County Sheriff’s Office is now investigating.
“Looked like a massacre – pretty bloody mess,” said Ismael Olguin, the Animal Control Supervisor for Rio Arriba County. He responded to one of the later attacks and said they believe up to four dogs were involved.
“We were able to establish an owner for one dog and the other dogs – we have no idea where they came from, who they belong to,” said Olguin. “We’ve made contact with one dog owner. So, I’ve made a formal report on my part so obviously, that’s got to get pushed through the court system and it will play out from there.”
Garcia’s daughter said no one was tending to the sheep during the first attack but that the later attacks happened when someone was staying overnight with the sheep. The attacks occurred before Garcia was able to harvest his herd’s wool, which he said means about $80,000 of lost income. But for Garcia, the loss is so much more.
“Not only did I lose the product for this year but I lost the factory for all future generations,” said Garcia. “These animals have been climatized, they’ve been bred to be in our high desert country – you can’t buy this grandma knowledge off the shelf at Walmart. It’s passed down.”
Garcia plans to sell the ranch. There is a GoFundMe to help him recover financially from the loss of his herd. The Rio Arriba County Sheriff’s Office said dog owners responsible could face fines or jail time.