Belen police are cracking down on cat and canine owners

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The Belen police officials want residents to corral their cats and canines.

Officials say more pet owners have been issued citations for animals are running at large or for pets that aren't confined to a specific property.

Each citation is $50, plus $29 in court courts for owners found in violation of the two ordinances.

"We are really getting a lot of reports from surrounding counties and cities about a rise in dog bites," said Vidal Torres, the city's animal control officer. "We've had several incidences this year. We are just trying to keep control over the animals that are (running) at-large."

Torres said he picks up six to seven dead animals each morning that are loose and that have apparently hit by a vehicle or killed by another animal.

Twenty-three citations have been issued in the month of February.

Security officer Eddie Jaramillo, who helps animal control, estimates the amount of citations from the past year to this year has tripled.

The restraint of animals ordinance says, "all persons owning or having charge, custody, care or control of any animal shall keep such animal restrained to his own premises. When dogs are out of their premises, they must be under leash of not more than eight feet in length and under the control of the owner or his designee."

The running-at-large ordinance is similar, and says animals that run freely outside of a confined property are "declared to be a nuisance, a menace to the public health and safety."

Animals must be restrained on a specific property by a fence or tether at all times.

Belen Police Chief Dan Robb said loose animals has caused some residents to break their exercise routines.

"It's increased a lot," Robb said. "It's become a quality-of-life issue for the residents here in Belen. Some people don't want to go for walks anymore because there are dogs everywhere."

The Belen Police Department posted a reminder of the ordinance on its Facebook page, and will post a message in city water bills next month.

Torres said animal control officers get 90 percent of its complaints about dogs who get into trash cans rather than in reference to a dangerous incident. He said there have been a few animal owners who have received multiple citations.

Jaramillo said cats cause trouble with canines in the city.

"It's not just dogs, it's cats as well," Jaramillo said. "Everyone thinks it's OK to let allow cats run around at night. That's just causing the dogs in the neighborhood to bark."

At first, officials were issuing warnings with not much success.

Robb said once the department started issuing citations, the number of complaints went down.

He said officials will continue to write citations to offenders. Hopefully, residents will get the message, he said.

"Ultimately, our goal is compliance," the police chief said.


-- Email the author at bruffner@news-bulletin.com.