Investigations

Thousands of strays, hundreds of dog bite calls reported in Albuquerque

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) - If you live in Albuquerque, you've probably come across this problem - stray dogs roaming the streets. In some cases, they pose a danger to the people they encounter. 

On Special Assignment, KRQE News 13 discovered just how bad the problem is. Records show thousands of stray dogs, and hundreds of bite calls are reported to the city each year. 

Nine-year-old Adam D'Arco loves to ride his bike around his southeast Albuquerque neighborhood. But someone caught him off guard on a ride two weeks ago. 

"It happened so fast," Adam recalled. Two stray dogs, a Doberman and Rottweiler, were loose in the street. "They came up and they were just barking at me and then one of them bit me, so I ran as fast as I could."

Adam is all right. He dropped his bike and ran home. His dad called the city and had the dogs picked up by Animal Welfare. 

It's not the first time neighbors have seen dogs running loose. "I had a pit bull come up to my front door to the point where I couldn't actually leave my home," explained Chris D'Arco, Adam's dad. "And then the two dogs that attacked my son, they've been out frequently." 

The problem isn't unique to one neighborhood.

Through a public records request, KRQE News 13 learned the City of Albuquerque Animal Welfare Department took in 7,868 stray dogs in 2016, 6,615 strays in 2017, and 5,591 stray dogs this year through October. 

"It's both a public safety concern and an Animal Welfare concern," explained Adam Ricci, the Chief of Field Operations with the Animal Welfare Department. "You know from time to time, they may be struck by a vehicle, or may bite a person."

"These are all things that the Animal Welfare Department is trying to identify and develop programs to be able to help sections of the community be better pet owners," Ricci added. 

Lieutenant Thomas Romero patrols the city for Animal Welfare, responding to 311 calls from the public. 

Over the last three years, Animal Welfare received roughly 700-800 dog bite calls each year.  

"I have kids - that's the only thing that scares me, is I don't know the dog that good," one neighbor told Romero while he was out on a call for a reported 'stray aggressive.' 

Neighbors called the city to report a brown Shepherd dog roams their streets, barking at passers. So far, no one's quite been able to catch her.  

Romero said calls from the public help him know where to patrol to try and keep the animals and neighbors safe. 

According to Ricci, roughly 40 percent of strays that are picked up are eventually reclaimed by owners. It's much easier to contact owners when the animal is micro-chipped, Ricci adds. 

Others sit in the shelter waiting to be adopted, while some aren't so lucky. 

More than a thousand dead dogs were picked up by Animal Welfare in less than three years. It's part of the reason the city pushes spay and neuter campaigns. 

"During the summer months, there's upwards of a thousand pets in care between all of our facilities," Ricci told KRQE News 13. 

If a dog bites someone, the animal will be quarantined for ten days. "And then it'd really be up to the officer based off of what had gone on, whether they would go forward with prosecution or go through other processes," Ricci explained.  

City ordinance also outlines a process for a dog to be considered dangerous

Those ones can land up in city custody, or listed on a public registry with their name, description, and home address visible online.

"It's more about being a responsible pet owner, and there's nothing Animal Control can do to curb this behavior, it's up to the pet owners to be responsible and make sure their dogs are contained," said Chris D'Arco. 

"Being aware, reporting it is very important," added Lt. Romero. 

Nine-year-old Adam said he still loves dogs, he just keeps a close eye out while he's out riding his bike. 

"If they're not like big dogs, I'm not really scared of them," Adam told KRQE News 13. 

The two dogs who attacked the 9-year-old went under quarantine, and have not yet been reclaimed by an owner. If they're not reclaimed, Ricci said they will go through a behavioral process to assess whether the dogs will be adoptable. 

According to data for the past three years, the City of Albuquerque takes in more dogs in a year than it adopts out. 

Pets can be micro-chipped for a $15 dollar fee at the City of Albuquerque Animal Welfare Department. No appointment necessary. For qualified low income, or seniors age 65 or older, micro-chipping is free of charge.

 

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