One Dog’s Tragic Story
Two people on vacation in New Mexico came across an injured dog at the entrance to San Ildefonso Pueblo. With great compassion, they took conscientious measures to notify someone who could help the dog. The following correspondence recounts a tragic and probably all-too- frequent event, a terrible lack of communication, and its sad conclusion.
December 4, 1999
RE: Injured Dog
FROM: Joan & Walter Peleszak
My husband and I visited family in New Mexico for the month of October. On Sunday 10/24 at about 9 A.M., we were driving to Santa Fe along Route 502 near the entrance to San Ildefonso Pueblo and saw an injured large, mixed breed dog just off the road. As we backed up to see him better, he looked at us but it was obvious he could not use his back end. We drove further on to the Pojoaque Pueblo Tribal Police Station and gave the officers the exact location and told them even though it seemed to be a serious injury, the dog was alert and should be rescued and put down humanely if necessary. They said they would report it. On our return trip we were dismayed to see the poor animal in the same position. We made a U-turn and got out of the car and gave him about 16 oz. of water and poured some on his head and neck. While we were there we flagged a tribal police car and he said he would go into the reservation and try to locate the owner. Before we left, the dog became more alert and started to whimper when he saw us leaving. When we got back to where we were staying, another call was made to Santa Fe Animal Control and we were told something would be done. At about 10 A.M. on the next day we returned to the spot and the poor dog was there dead.
It was very upsetting and spoiled much of our vacation to think no one cared enough to help this dog even if it meant putting it down humanely.
Until we received a copy of Petroglyphs, we were beginning to think New Mexico did not have any humane agencies, nor did they care for their animals. Where were those agencies on Sunday October 24th?
Santa Fe County Sheriff
Animal Alliance-Santa Fe
Pojoaque Pueblo Tribal Police
San Ildefonso Tribal Police
Santa Fe Animal Shelter and Humane Society
December 15, 1999
Joan and Walter Peleszak
Nesquehoning, PA 18240
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Peleszak:
This is in reference to your letter dated December 4,1999 to the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Department. At this time we would like to apologize for your vacation being spoiled. New Mexico does have humane agencies and the Santa Fe County Animal Control is one of these agencies. An injured animal is on top of our priority list and on October 24, 1999 our records do not show any calls from any of the agencies that you mentioned in your letter. Somehow this was not communicated to our agency and the animal suffered this ordeal. Once again I do apologize for this.
In Santa Fe County we do care for our animals so please don't let this incident leave you with a bad impression of New Mexico and Santa Fe County. Please feel free to contact me if there are any questions at 505-424-2050.
Supervisor Santa Fe County Animal Control
December 28, 1999
Santa Fe County Sheriff's Department
Santa Fe, New Mexico 87504-0438
We appreciate your reply to our letter dated December 4, 1999. You mention that the incident we reported regarding the injured animal on October 24, 1999 was not communicated to your agency. I must point out that there is evidently a breakdown in the system. I watched my husband walk into the Pojoaque Pueblo Tribal Police Station and he said he spoke to two police officers. Also, we both watched the tribal police officer drive into the reservation supposedly to speak to someone there. In addition, I stood next to my daughter while she called Santa Fe County dispatch. What more could we have done? The body of that animal was still there on Monday evening, more than 36 hours after we first reported it.
Not Enough Communication
or Not Enough Caring?
by Freddi Hetler
Without question, the story related in the Peleszak's letter is a tragedy. We ask ourselves, "How could that happen? Somebody should have done something." The Peleszaks did do what they could, and thought was right — turning to the proper authorities. It's too bad the dog was running loose. Prevention of the situation obviously would have been best, and there are laws that address this specific problem. However, once the animal was injured, what should have been done?
Since it was a Sunday when this dog was found, Animal Control needed to be contacted through the Sheriff's Department, which then dispatches the call to the Animal Control officers. Andrew Jaramillo, Santa Fe County Animal Control Supervisor, has since checked the dispatch log. According to Jaramillo, the log doesn't show the call being received by his department from any of the agencies mentioned by the Peleszaks in their letter. Kate Rindy, Director of Santa Fe Animal Shelter and Humane Society, who usually works on Sundays, does not remember the call coming to the Shelter. Her advice would have been to call Animal Control. Her usual qualifier to that advice is if Animal Control is unable to respond fairly quickly, to call her back. This did not happen that day.
Another situation occurs when an injured animal is found on tribal land, as this dog was. Animal Control cannot go onto tribal land without being invited, but the pueblos will often call for Animal Control to come when they are needed. No call was placed on that day by the pueblo to Santa Fe Animal Control. Attempts to reach the Pojoaque Tribal Police Chief were referred to their Governor, who as yet had not responded.
What should a person do who finds an injured animal, such as a cat or dog? It seems that the Peleszaks did just about everything a person could do. When asked that question, Jaramillo says he'd "prefer the person not move the animal," but suggests the caller stand by near the animal after making the call. "Sometimes we can't find the animal. Sometimes we need better directions," he says. He feels very sorry about what happened to the dog, but adds, "It's nobody's fault. It was miscommunication."
Santa Fe Animal Control covers a 2,000-square-mile territory with only two officers on duty each day. At times, bogus or uninvestigated calls take the officers miles away from real emergencies. Jaramillo describes a recent call: "Someone said there was a dead dog under a blanket. We drove out and found there was no dog, just a blanket. No one had investigated the real situation." This call took valuable time away from other calls to which the officers could have been responding.
It seems the Peleszaks did many of the right things given the situation. Better communication between agencies may have helped.
Freddi Hetler lives southeast of Santa Fe with her husband, five dogs and four cats. In her spare time, she volunteers for the Santa Fe Animal Shelter and Humane Society and El Dorado Fire and Rescue.
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