Dog Attacks Kill Hundreds of El Rito Rancher’s Sheep
ALBUQUERQUE, NM (KRQE) – Nearly 250 sheep killed by loose dogs has left a New Mexico rancher devastated and angry. “Out of 300 sheep, we have less than 50 left,” said Ronald Garcia, a sheep farmer from El Rito. 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,” Garcia said. The sheep that remain at the ranch are badly injured and some are barely holding on. He said that over the past few weeks, nearby dogs were able to jump over a nearly six-foot fence to attack his sheep, at least four times.
“The anger and frustration are not even describable,” Garcia said. “I wake up hearing sheep crying for their dead babies.” He said the sheep broke down a gate and a corral trying to escape the dog’s attack. The Rio Arriba County Sheriff’s Office is currently investigating.
“It looked like a massacre – a hell of a mess,” said Rio Arriba County animal control supervisor Ismael Olguin. He responded to one of the subsequent attacks and said they believed 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,” Olguin said. “We contacted a dog owner. So, I made an official report on my part, so obviously it has to be 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 later attacks happened when someone was spending the night with the sheep. The attacks took place before Garcia could harvest wool from his flock, which he says amounts to about $80,000 in lost income. But for Garcia, the loss is much more.
“Not only did I lose the product for this year, but I lost the factory for all future generations,” Garcia said. “These animals were air-conditioned, they were bred to be in our high desert country – you can’t buy that grandma’s knowledge off the Walmart shelf. 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 responsible dog owners could face fines or jail time.