KIRTLAND — Where a property line runs on a four-foot strip of dirt outside the home of Heather Murray might be the determining factor in whether a dog that attacked a couple last week lives or dies.
Murray said Wednesday that neighbors Holly and Kurtis Sletta were arguing with her boyfriend, Larry Walters, in the ditch line outside her property on County Road 6317 the night of the dog attack.
"They came over here," she said. "We didn't go over there."
Murray's dog, "Bubbs," is being held by the San Juan County Sheriff's Office pending an investigation into the July 23 attack. If the dog is determined to be "vicious," as defined by county ordinances, animal control will require that it be put down.
"He is wonderful, he is sweet," Murray said. "He was just protecting me, my boyfriend and my grandchild."
According to county ordinances, an animal is vicious if it attacks a person, unprovoked, on private property, or if it attacks or terrorizes a person on public property. An animal that attacks a person that is unlawfully on it's owner's property, or which is provoked to attack, would not be deemed vicious.
Murray claims that Kurtis Sletta was standing on the ditch line that separates her house from the road, possibly within her property. Walters further claims that the Slettas were kicking and taunting the dog before it attacked. She also claimed that Kurtis Sletta was drunk during the incident.
Holly Sletta said that neither she nor her husband provoked the animal, but acknowledged that her husband had been drinking.
Sergeant David Pixton said that provocation is determined on a case-by-case basis.
"When we go into any type of situation, we look at where it happened at, what were the people doing, and what was the dog doing," he said.
Holly Sletta received eight stitches in her left thigh as a result of the attack. Her husband required seven stitches to his chin after being bitten.
The neighbors acknowledged that they had been feuding for well over a year, mostly over issues involving each other's dogs. Holly Sletta claimed her dogs have been attacked by Murray's before, a claim Murray also made about Slettas' dogs.
"She has always been a little bit crazy," Holly Sletta said. "That is what the whole neighborhood says."
Walters said he waves at the Slettas when he sees them at the store, "but they don't say hi, because they don't like my girl."
Deputy Lopez is the investigating officer in the July 23 incident. He said he could not discuss the specifics of the case, because the investigation is ongoing.