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New SRPD Animal Control Technician, Travaleah “Leah” Chavez.

Be Aware: Dog Attacks and Bites

As the temperatures cool off in the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community and more people are outside enjoying the weather, it’s important to be on alert if you come across any loose dogs.

Many dogs just want to be petted or want to play, but some dogs are going to be aggressive. In most cases, a dog’s aggressiveness has little to do with people; dogs may turn aggressive when they are around other dogs that they see as competition for a female mate, or if puppies are in the area, Salt River Police Department Sgt. Ricky Gwaltney said.

In 2016, 34 animal bites were reported to the SRPD; almost all were dog bites, with a few cat bites. Of the dog bites, police classified two as serious. Police euthanized 32 animals, typically dogs that were severely injured. Almost 300 animals found roaming the Community were taken to Maricopa County Animal Control; 95 percent of them were dogs.

So far this year, police have received about 700 calls related to animals, which range from stray or injured dogs or cats to wild horses roaming public areas.

In May, in the area of Oak Street and Country Club Drive, a neighbor’s dog bit a 10-year-old child. In September, in the 2600 block of Alma School Road, seven dogs from a residence attacked a woman. Both incidents were classified as serious dog bites.

“Her injuries were quite significant; a follow-up was done on her this month, and she still had staples and has to go through a few more surgeries,” Gwaltney said about the female victim. He said this dog attack was the probably the most serious he’s seen in the seven years he has been working in the Community. “That attack almost killed her.”

The seven dogs were surrendered to the SRPD Ranger Unit, taken to Animal Control and euthanized.

When someone reports a bite or attack, SRPD’s Animal Control Specialist will visit the location to find out if the animal has had its vaccinations and if it has been spayed or neutered. The animal will either be quarantined at home or taken to Maricopa County Animal Control for 14 days. During those 14 days, the dog is tested to see if it’s safe to release.

SRPD Animal Control Technician Vehicle.
“When your dog has been declared vicious within the Community, there are restrictions you have to follow, such as having to keep it in a yard with a fence high enough to where they cannot get out, or chained with a length of six feet at the most,” said Gwaltney.

In September, SRPD hired its first animal control technician, Travaleah Chavez, according to a police news release. Chavez’s responsibilities include enforcing animal-control ordinances, investigating stray-dog reports or uncontrolled animals, and checking on animal-cruelty allegations. She’ll also provide educational information and coordinate with other groups about animal care and spay/neuter clinics.

The position “meets our SRPD Mission to serve and protect the health, safety and welfare of the Community as well as the care and protection of animals,” said SRPD Chief Karl Auerbach.

“I look forward to the different challenges I will experience every day,” Chavez said.

With Chavez’s hiring, the Ranger Unit can focus more of its time on protecting the Community’s sacred archeological and environmental sites, Auerbach said.

“SRPD is very grateful to have received the budget funding supported by the Community Council for this valuable position,” he said.

When outside for recreation, be aware of your surroundings. If you see a strange dog, it’s best to avoid it.

A female dog’s heat cycle is every three months in the Valley, typically in the spring; but because of Arizona’s temperate zones, it varies.

So when the dogs become aggressive, it’s not necessary directed toward people. Where the problem comes in is when two male dogs are fighting and a homeowner tries to break up the fight, Gwaltney said.

About five incidents have occurred because people tried to break up a dogfight.

Dogs should be spayed or neutered to help curb their aggressive tendencies. Keep dogs vaccinated. Community members should keep their dogs on their property. The animal’s owner will be held responsible for any injury or damage caused by a dog.