MADRID—In the last six days, 2,000 people have signed a petition urging Santa Fe County Animal Control, the Sheriff’s Office and prosecutors to take action against a man with a long history of breeding dogs that attack other dogs—and even a horse—residents of this small mountain town say.
The situation on Wild Dog Road in unincorporated Santa Fe County boiled over on Aug. 23, when neighbors say several of Franco Ybarra’s dogs charged onto his neighbor’s property and mauled a dog to death. It seems to be the last straw for Madrid community members, who are frustrated with law enforcement, the county and the magistrate court for never bringing a case against Ybarra.
On Sept. 10, Animal Control called for a community meeting, which about 40 people attended, including Ybarra and Sarah Leamy, who owned the dog that was killed in her yard.
Two representatives from Animal Control, Santa Fe County Sheriff Adan Mendoza and another officer led the meeting. County Commissioner Rudy Garcia and a representative from the Attorney General’s Office were scheduled to attend, but didn’t, according to Leamy.
The meeting grew heated quickly after Leamy read an emotional letter about the death of her dog, Rosie. Multiple residents demanded that officials stop Ybarra from owning more dogs.
But neither department had sufficient answers for residents. Both recommended that people take photos and videos of dogs they see roaming without a leash or acting aggressively. Animal Control can issue citations and the sheriff’s office can contribute statements toward a criminal complaint, they said.
Ultimately, it's up to the Santa Fe County attorney's office to show up for trials in Magistrate Court to prosecute Ybarra; a judge would determine whether a particular dog is "vicious." But county officials haven't done that so far, despite at least five other dogs being attacked by Ybarra's animals, two of which were killed, residents say.
Ybarra appeared upset during the meeting, but he did not address his fellow residents formally. He did not appear to deny their accusations that his dogs have killed other animals, and he left before the meeting ended.
“My focus at the meeting is to get a guarantee from Animal Control that they will prosecute under the Dangerous Dog Act of New Mexico and that they will show up to ALL court dates,” Leamy wrote in a change.org petition. “In the past, each criminal case was dismissed because the Santa Fe County prosecutor failed to be there in Magistrate Court on the final date. Repeatedly. The last four times. Santa Fe County is just as liable as the owner of the dogs.”
Regarding justice for Rosie, Mendoza says at the Tuesday evening meeting, he plans to follow the case. But the Sheriff’s Office investigation is still ongoing and there’s no assurance that charges would be brought against Ybarra.
While residents were appreciative that representatives from Animal Control and the sheriff’s office attended the meeting, they are planning a larger movement.
The first step is to file a civil lawsuit against Ybarra and then work on strengthening the county's ordinance on restraining dogs, which was last amended in 2014.
"We will absolutely be committed to doing whatever we can based on what we've been told legally," Madrid resident Stephanie Coulthard tells SFR. "We are now committed to going up and filing a civil suit and changing the ordinance going forward. It may not be easy, however our County Commissioner Rudy Garcia has been extremely receptive to this neighborhood and I believe he will work with us."
Coulthard is spearheading the movement to change the county’s ordinance. She played a major role in changing the county’s ordinance so that dogs could not be chained outside. Now, she and others want to add a leash law to the county ordinance so that it more closely resembles the city’s leash rules.
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Katherine is a Florida native in Santa Fe to cover the texture and life of the city's Southside using writing, photography, videography and audio. She's a grant-funded fellow in the Report for America program and her work is underwritten by the Brindle and McCune foundations, Enterprise Bank and Hutton Broadcasting.