Animal-killing contest resolution nixed by Valencia County Commission

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On a 3-2 vote, Valencia County Commissioners nixed a resolution that would condemn animal-killing contests in the county.

A resolution is not a law and has no penalties; instead it expresses the opinion or position of a public body.

The majority of the people who addressed the commission were in favor of the resolution, but a few expressed opposition.

Valencia County Commissioner Alicia Aguilar, who sponsored the resolution, said she was concerned the contests were giving the county a negative image.

"When these are advertised as Valencia County, it looks like the whole county condones it," Aguilar said. "It brings negative press."

She pointed out that the local businesses that sponsored recent contest hunts were based in the village of Los Lunas, yet the village's name and reputation were not associated with the contests.

Commission Chairman Charles Eaton said he personally didn't agree with the contests.

"For a business to put something up as a purely money-making proposition is not good for Valencia County," Eaton said. "This is not make or break for these businesses. It's done for popularity and an attempt to bring in business."

Mark Chavez, the owner of Gunhawk Firearms in Los Lunas, said he has seen many industries "go down the drain because everyone wants to protect certain animals. So we lose industry."

Chavez' business has sponsored two hunts since last year, one for coyotes and a second for prairie dogs. He argued that the hunts eliminated predators and nuisance animals.

"By me providing these contests it doesn't cost taxpayers or the county any money," he said.

Chavez said if Valencia County decided to oppose these kinds of hunts, it would find itself in the position of having to manage the coyotes.

Los Chavez resident Gail Goodman said she opposed the resolution based on its title, pointing out that the animals discussed were, for the most part, coyotes.

Goodman said a state bill banning animal killing contests failed to gain support during the last legislative session because some feared the word "animal" was too broad. She asked that the county resolution be renamed to specify coyotes, if that was the concern.

"People felt it would extend to all wildlife, that it could extend to any kind of hunting contest where animals might die, such as a fishing derby or field trials," Goodman said. "I think it's an incendiary term used by the press and animal rights activists."

A supporter of the resolution, Elizabeth Dicharry, said she and others understood that this was only a resolution, without force of law.

"What we want is to show that our county is compassionate, progressive and safe," Dicharry said.

As a registered nurse, working in the emergency room regularly, Dicharry said she had seen people come into the hospital injured by feral dogs, but not coyotes.

Her husband, Guy Dicharry, said the premise of these contests was to "shoot often and shoot fast. It is done for publicity and revenue. When you see on the news, people counting a bunch of amputated prairie dog tails in a Ziploc bag, it's all burden, no benefit."

Virginia Smith, of San Clemente, said she has livestock and has lost seven animals to wild dogs but none to coyotes.

"I echo that we have lost our moral compass," Smith said. "I don't think this is what our community is about."

Raymond Watt also supported the resolution, asking that the commission not let "one small gun shop, out for self promotion, call the shots."

Aguilar made the motion to approve the resolution, with a second from Eaton. They voted yes, while commissioners Lawrence Romero, Mary Andersen and Jhonathan Aragon voted no.


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