Navajo Nation struggles with feral dogs

Posted at: 01/01/2013 6:19 PM
By: Chris Ramirez, KOB Eyewitness News 4

Feral dogs mauled and killed an 8-year-old boy on reservation land the day after Christmas. People now worry the dogs are growing more violent and out of control.

The attack happened on the Ramah Chapter of the Navajo Nation, which is south of Grants and Gallup. Reports state nine dogs attacked Tomas Jay Henio while he was outside playing in the snow near his home in Pinehill. By the time his parents discovered him, he was dead and had bite marks all over his face.

"It's no fun losing a family member like this, especially right after Christmas," Clay Henio, who is a cousin to Tomas, said.

Clay Henio said it was only a matter of time before the dogs attacked a child.

"When I heard about those dogs eating that little boy, I didn't doubt it because I've seen some dogs (that are) bony around here," Clay Henio said.

For years, dogs have attacked cattle and livestock. This past November, Grace Begay said one dog stalked and eventually killed 14 of her sheep.

"When I went out to feed the sheep, one of the faces was all chewed up and bloody,” Begay said. “His face was bleeding to death."

Recent reports state there are an estimated 445,000 feral dogs roaming around Cibola and McKinley Counties. The Navajo Nation does have a team of animal control officers, but the community feels they are making a small dent in the ongoing problem.

Tomas’s classmates will return to their school soon.

“Tomas was a joy to have in class,” said Jodilyn Blake, Tomas’s reading teacher. “He had a sweet smile. He was quick with his answers and kind to everyone. He rarely got in trouble and was very easy to love. His work was always exemplary and he was a model citizen in the classroom. Words cannot express how much our second grade will miss him.”

The dogs believed to have killed Tomas have been euthanized. The FBI continues to investigate this case since it happened on federal land. No charges have been filed.