TUBA CITY—Residents of Tuba City are outraged by what they consider excessive use of force by local Animal Control employees. The outrage stems from a recent killing of a family pet by Animal Control Officer Stacey Daw. Pet owner Geneva Colorado maintains that her dog, "It," was waiting for her under her pick-up truck in the parking lot at the Tuba City Hospital when Animal Control arrived, harassed, shot and killed the dog. In her report to Navajo Nation Fish and Wildlife, Daw maintains that the dog was vicious and she was called in by concerned citizens to contain the situation.
"Our family had 'It' ever since he was a little puppy," Colorado said. "The old Tuba City vet gave him to us. He was a member of our family; we loved him. He even slept with my little boy."
Colorado said the dog usually stayed home while she went to work on the day shift at the hospital. "But he wanted to come with me, this one day in May. So I let him and told him to go home,” Colorado said. "I took a discharged patient out to her vehicle around 11 a.m. that morning, and I looked for It and he was gone. I thought he had gone home. But when I went home for lunch, I couldn't find 'It.' I called, I looked around. Somebody told me that Animal Control had taken him."
Colorado said she immediately went to the Animal Conytrol building to find her dog. "No one was there," Colorado said. "I walked arpound the kennel area and called 'It,' and had no response. I drove back to work crying."
Colorado said that when she got back to the hospital, she contacted hospital security and was told by Security Guard Alta Kootswatewa that they had received a report that Animal Control has trapped a dog under a car and that the dog "was mean with them."
"That's when I knew that Animal Control had my dog," Colorado said. "I filled out a leave slip and left to find my dog. I thought he was being hauled around by Animal Control and that I would find him at the shelter."
Later that afternoon, Colorado and her children went to the Animal Control kennels, "to bail out my dog," Colroado said. Colorado said that when she talked with Stacey Daw at the Animal Shelter, Daw inisisted she had not picked up her dog. But then Daw took to a storage shed with a freezer in it and said, 'look in those plastic bags.'" Colorado found her beloved family pet dead and wrapped in a garbage bag.
According to Daw's report, she had been contacted on May 5 at 9:35 from Tuba City Medical Center Securuity who alleged that there was a vicious blue heeler in the hospital parking lot. The security officer said two security officers were already at the scene. Daw wrote, "I arrived at the scene and observed one dog: blue heeler under a vehicle...I advised the securitys that we could capture the dog...as we were attempting to capture the dog the securitys were frightened of the dog...the dog ran toward the old airport. Due to its viciousness....the blue heeler was shot and destroyed on site."
Daw explained that she could not directly discuss the case because the situation was still under investigation, and her boss, Navajo Fish and Wildlife Director Mike Halona, had instructed her not to discuss it with anyone.
The shooting engendered storms of protest from Tuba City residents. Many Tuba residents admit that there is a stray dog problem in Tuba City, but allege that Animal Control officers ignore strays and routinely round up family pets.
"Last year, I heard my neighbor's dogs barking in their back yard," Tuba City resident Julia Crews wrote in a public statement. "I saw an Animal Control Officer jump over their fence and capture their pet dogs with a catchpole inside their own fenced back yard. The dogs were giving no one any problems."
Pediatrician Steve Moul of the Tuba City Hospital, in a letter dated 5/19/ 00, wrote that last Fall he witnessed two Animal Control officers shoot a dog in a residential area next to the hospital. "While I am not familiar with...the details involving the [death] of this animal, the fact that the officers were discharging a weapon in a residential area is a matter of grave conern...From my observations, the officers made no attempt to capture the dog alive but went directly to lethal force."
Animal control is always a controversial issue, but many Tuba City residents view the current staff of Animal Control officers as "trigger happy." Tuba City resident Mary Jo Paups said she has attended many meetings between the Humane Society and Navajo Fish and Wildlife head Mike Halona in an attempt to "tackle the enormous problem of cat and dog population."
Paups wrote, "The objective of Animal Control was the 'capture and kill approach.' The objective of the Humane Society was rescue, adoption and education of the community...it is unfortunate that the 'capture and kill' approach of [the Navajo Nation Animal Control] has them feeling justified in discharging firearms in residential and federally owned land. Discharging firearms in these areas is not only dangerous to the public, but also unlawful."
Halona has yet to respond to media inquiries about the recent allegations.