Navajo Nation of Arizona, New Mexico & Utah


The number of stray dogs running the Nation has grown markedly following budget cuts, tribal officials say. Unfortunately, says Mike Halona, an administrative officer with the tribe's Department of Game and Fish, the stray dog problem on the reservation was almost under control until the 11 animal control officers were let go in October. Two other officers also have resigned. "Animal control is usually one of the tribal programs that has the lowest priority but has the biggest impact," Halona said. The Nation averaged more than 3,000 dog bites a year since 1997, he said. "To get a sweep now (to round up stray dogs) is about like an act of God to get all three officers in one place at one time." The department wants to hire seven more officers by October if the funding is available. But that's a far cry from the 25 officers that would be necessary to have a successful animal control program, he said. Scott Bender of the Navajo Nation's veterinary clinic in Chinle, Ariz., said the increase in stray dogs is evident by the number of road kill on the reservation and dead livestock killed by wild dogs. "I'm already seeing more (stray) dogs. Every month, I see dozens of sheep that are torn up by them."

A shooting victim's family may fail in an attempt to keep a killer behind bars, but there's a chance he may be barred from the Navajo Reservation. Two New Mexico parole officials say they back the idea that a former Gallup police officer who killed his Navajo common-law wife shouldn't be allowed to return to the Navajo Nation. The entire Navajo Nation suffered the trauma resulting from the 1991 shooting death of Ella Johnson, said Norman Singer, a member of the New Mexico Parole Board "They are tied in kinship. One family is all family," Singer said after meeting members of Johnson's family April 21 in Santa Fe. In 1991, while a corporal for the Gallup Police Department, Mayes shot Johnson to death while he was on duty. He was sentenced to 16 years in prison but is to be released after serving eight years. "Good-time" credits, received for staying out of trouble, cut his sentence in half. On April 20, the Navajo Nation Tribal Council passed a resolution asking that Mayes be kept in prison for 16 years. Elouise Johnson, the victim's sister, said the family intends to talk to the governor, the attorney general and legislators about Mayes' release. "We're going to the top," she said.