CIBOLA COUNTY – An eight-year-old boy, Tomas Jay Henio, was attacked and killed by nine feral dogs on Wednesday, Dec. 26.
A representative from the Ramah Navajo Police Department confirmed the incident.
According to the Cibola County Sheriff’s Office, Henio went outside and minutes later his mom went to check on him only find her child face down, unresponsive, with bite marks on his body.
The Albuquerque Journal reported this past weekend that Henio was the oldest of four children.
The initial call to central dispatch about the boy was at about 8 p.m., according to Undersheriff Tony Mace.
He said that most of the dogs were strays that were being fed by the boy’s uncle.
The Undersheriff also said that one dog belonged to the family of the boy who was killed while the other eight were feral dogs, also known as stray dogs, that hung around the Pinehill and Candy Kitchen area.
All nine dogs were captured on Thursday, Dec. 27, by two county sheriff animal control officers and were delivered to an official at the Grants Animal Care Center at approximately 6 p.m. They were all euthanized that evening, according to Mace.
The Undersheriff said that he is unaware if charges will be filed.
The incident was on Navajo Nation land and the Gallup FBI office, according to Ramah Navajo Police Department Sgt. Delvin Maria, is now handling the case.
Feral dogs in Cibola County are a problem.
In 2011 Kevin Gleason, Navajo Nation wildlife and animal control manager, reported that there were four-to-five dogs for each of the more than 89,000 households – or as many as 445,000 dogs, most of which roam unchecked, killing livestock and biting people with alarming regularity.
There are several parts of Cibola County that belong to the Navajo Nation. One part is the Pinehill area, where the incident took place last week.
In Pinehill, stray dogs roam the sides of highways, store parking lots and just about anywhere they find food.
“They [feral dogs] kill everything,” Gleason was reported saying by the Associated Press in a Colorado newspaper. “Cats, dogs, cattle, sheep, horses… We just had a case where a man lost 37 sheep to a pack of dogs.”
Officers responded to more than 25 bite cases a month, said Gleason. And, 25 livestock damage cases a month.
Feral dogs mauled a 55-year-old man in 2011 after he fell down from a seizure. Following the incident, Gleason said, his department went in and removed 79 dogs [from the area where the man was killed]. “And it looked like we never touched it,” he added.
To many others, it is simple.
Some cannot afford to take their dog, or dogs, to a vet. A veterinarian office is not likely to open on the reservation.
The Journal reported that Freddie Lee, pastor of Pinehill church, said the attack [on Henio] has again raised awareness about the feral dog problem on the reservation. “A lot of people are shocked, “ Lee said. “A lot of people have kind of woke up to the dogs running around loose.”
He said he hopes Pinehill residents will take more steps to control their animals, and he said plans are in the works to encourage local government to step in.
“I think they’ll have better control. We’ll talk to the [Navajo Nation] chapter government here to see what they want to do,” the Journal reported Lee as saying. On average, Gleason reported, the Navajo Nation euthanizes about 6,000 dogs a year.
The stray dog problem on the Navajo Reservation goes back to a contrasting mix of cultural and socioeconomics issues. For some tribes, respect for dogs dates back to a time when canines served as pack animals and protectors of the camp.
Others believe dogs belong to the spirits and should not be killed.