Should dogs ride in truck beds? Should chickens live in cities? Aztec debates animal ordinances

Proposals were debated during recent workshop

Hannah Grover
Farmington Daily Times
A chicken wanders through a pen Sept. 11 at the Aztec Animal Shelter. An animal control officer caught the chicken as it was running around the shelter parking lot. The Aztec City Commission is considering allowing residents to keep chickens.

AZTEC — Aztec is considering the adoption of several new or reinstated ordinances relating to animals.

The City Commission discussed the proposed ordinances during a workshop on Sept. 10.  The most debated of the proposed ordinances was a prohibition against drivers having dogs ride unsecured in the back of a pickup truck.

“I think it would be like leashing cats,” Commissioner Roslyn Fry commented after a lengthy debate.

Fry was referring to a controversial 1980s effort to require residents to keep cats on leashes if the cat was not on private property.

The city previously had an ordinance prohibiting dogs from riding unsecured in the back of trucks. Aztec Animal Shelter Director Tina Roper said that ordinance was eliminated several years ago because animal control had no authority to enforce the ordinance.

“It’s not something that animal control can enforce because I don’t have the authority to pull people over,” Roper said.

A goose hides at the back of its pen Sept. 11 at the Aztec Animal Shelter. Aztec residents are not allowed to keep geese in most parts of the city.

The ordinance would have to be included in the city's traffic laws, and police would be tasked with enforcing it, she said.

Aztec resident Diana Mesch said she does not like the idea of dogs riding in the back of trucks, but she does not support the proposed ordinance.

“I do not think we should impose on the police department to try to enforce something like this,” she said.

Mayor Victor Snover argued the ordinance is important to protect dogs. He said 100,000 dogs die each year in the United States because they were riding in the back of a truck.

“When I was a kid, we didn’t have to wear a seatbelt,” Snover said. “We do now.”

He said he has let dogs ride in the back of a truck before. Snover told a story about a boxer he had that jumped out of the back of his truck when it was stopped and fled. He said the dog was lost for several days.

Meanwhile, Fry said she had a dog jump out of the back of a truck and become badly injured.

A pot-bellied pig walks in a pen Sept. 11 at the Aztec Animal Shelter. One of the ordinances the Aztec City Commission is considering would require pot-bellied pigs to be spayed or neutered.

At the same time, Commissioner Sherri Sipe emphasized the town's nonurban nature.

"We live in a rural area," Sipe said. "My dogs love to ride in the back of the truck. I know a lot of other people whose dogs love to go for rides in the back of the truck."

She also expressed concerns about over-regulation.

"I see the safety issue of it. too, but I think we're trying to over-regulate what our citizens can do," Sipe said.

Another proposed ordinance would require pet owners to keep dogs in sheltered areas during weather that features extreme temperatures.

Roper said there are many variables that would make that ordinance hard to enforce. She said different dog breeds need shelter at different temperatures.

Roper said there is already an ordinance in place requiring dog houses, as well as access to shade. She said that ordinance could be strengthened to accomplish the same goal.

Roper also said a proposed ordinance limiting the amount of time a dog could spend on a chain would be almost impossible to enforce.

The City Commission did not discuss a proposed ordinance about spaying or neutering pot-bellied pigs, and it only briefly touched on allowing residents to keep chickens, ducks or turkeys.

A chicken stands in a pen Sept. 11 at the Aztec Animal Shelter.

Community Development Director Steven Saavedra said those birds are only allowed in areas zoned for agriculture, but he said it is not uncommon for people to keep chickens in other parts of the city.

“We’ve taken a very laissez faire approach when it comes to chickens,” he said.

Commissioner Mark Lewis said he has received more requests from Aztec residents seeking an ordinance that would allow them to keep chickens than he has in regard to any other issue.

Sipe said she can understand the desire of some residents to keep chickens in the city, but she does not know if she would support the keeping of other farm birds. She said turkeys can be noisy.

No city in San Juan County allows chickens outside of areas zoned for agriculture.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at

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