KIRTLAND — A San Juan County Sheriff's Office official said Tuesday that the office is seeking charges against a woman whose dog attacked a couple last week.

Holly Sletta said she and her husband received a total of fifteen stitches after they were attacked by a next-door neighbor's dog on County Road 6317 on July 23. Sletta said her six-year-old son, Josiah, was with her when she was attacked, but remained unharmed because she held him over her head.

"I saw the dog coming at us," she said. "He didn't growl. He didn't bark. He just came right at us."

Holly Sletta said her husband missed two days of work because of a bite to his chin and she could not walk for several days following the attack.

Holly Sletta shows bruising and stitches on Tuesday she says are from an attack by her neighbor’s dog at her home in Kirtland.
Holly Sletta shows bruising and stitches on Tuesday she says are from an attack by her neighbor's dog at her home in Kirtland. (Jon Austria/The Daily Times)

Sletta said she was told by animal control Tuesday that the dog would be released Saturday, after the completion of a 10-day holding period used to determine whether the animal has rabies.

"We called animal control, and they said the dog can't be deemed vicious unless it bites three times," she said.

According to San Juan County's ordinance, a vicious animal is "any animal which commits an unprovoked attack upon a person on private property, or which terrorizes or attacks a person on public property or in a public place within San Juan County..."

An animal is not vicious, the ordinance states, if it attacks a person who is unlawfully on its owner's property, or is provoked to attack. The ordinance doesn't mention a three bites requirement.

According to a sheriff's report from the incident, neighbors told an officer that the pitbull-type dog jumped its owner's fence and attacked Holly and her husband, Kurtis Sletta, who were arguing outside the home at the time.

The dog's owner, Heather Murray, told the officer that her boyfriend was arguing with Kurtis Sletta because the couple was being loud.

"It appeared an argument between Ms. Murray and the Slettas caused the dog to become agitated, but Ms. Murray did not take any action to keep the dog from jumping over the fence," according to the deputy's report.

Holly Sletta at her home in Kirtland on Tuesday shows wounds she says she sustained when her neighbor’s dog attacked her on July 23.
Holly Sletta at her home in Kirtland on Tuesday shows wounds she says she sustained when her neighbor's dog attacked her on July 23. (Jon Austria / The Daily Times)

Murray could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Sheriff's Sergeant David Pixton said Tuesday that his office has referred criminal charges against the dog's owner and the dog would not be released Saturday as a result.

"If the situation meets the elements of a 'vicious dog,' as outlined in the statutes, then the dog is seized by us as evidence and it is held," he said.

Neighbor Gilbert Lopez said he saw the dog jump the fence and attack Holly Sletta and her son.

"That is not even the first time it's happened," he said. "He went after my son, too."

Lopez said his son was walking home from school when the dog approached him in the street. A neighbor saw what was happening and, using his truck, separated the animal from the boy.

Lopez said he reported the incident, but nothing came of it.

Steve Garrison covers crime and courts for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4644 and stgarrison@daily-times.com. Follow him on Twitter @SteveGarrisonDT on Twitter.