Navajo Nation President Nez signs bill to make vicious dogs, animal attacks a crime

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez signed into law a bill to make injuries or deaths caused by vicious dogs or other animals a crime and to establish penalties in the tribe's criminal code.

The bill was passed last month by the Navajo Nation Council and was developed in response to injuries and deaths caused by dangerous dogs.

"There are many factors that contribute to this issue, not all of them will be solved in this amendment to the criminal code. Additional amendments to consider include criminal offenses for animal cruelty and abandonment," Nez wrote in a message to Speaker Seth Damon.

Nez approved the council resolution and issued his message on May 9. Both documents were also signed by Vice President Myron Lizer.

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Together, the two leaders noted that the tribe's animal control program, in working with the Navajo Nation Division of Public Safety, needs to authorize animal control officers to serve as peace officers so they can enforce the criminal code.

"Right now, only police officers can enforce Title 17," they wrote.

Title 17 of the Navajo Nation Code outlines offenses and sentences for crimes under the tribe's authority.

However, this type of authority for animal control officers would require training and certification under standards and training for peace officers, they stated, then added that more animal control officers are needed as well as additional funding for the program.

"We strongly recommend the council consider these issues during the (fiscal year 2023) budget deliberations," they wrote.

They also mentioned that public education and prevention is needed to develop responsible pet ownership.

"Responsible pet stewardship through spaying, neutering and vaccination can reduce the population of strays that wander and become aggressive due to starvation and disease," they wrote.

Funding to help Colorado ranches nixed

Nez used the line-item veto on May 9 to strike down request to provide approximately $1.8 million in supplemental funding to the tribe's Division of Natural Resources to mitigate drought conditions at the tribe's two ranches in Colorado.

The funding would have come from the Unreserved Undesignated Fund Balance.Nez and Lizer explained the reasoning behind the line-item veto in a message to Damon.

While they "understand" the difficulties both ranches face by drought conditions, they cannot approve the amount when other financial aid is available through tribal sources or the federal government.

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These avenues include emergency relief under the U.S. Department of Agriculture for livestock producers and rangeland affected by drought, an economic development relief grant under the American Rescue Plan Act and the tribe's Department of Agriculture's agriculture infrastructure fund.

"These alternative funding sources, among others, should be exhausted before requesting funds from our limited Navajo Nation funds, such as the UUFB and the Síhasin fund," they wrote.

The tribe used its Land Acquisition Trust Fund to purchase the Boyer Ranch in Custer County in 2018 and the Wolf Springs Ranch in Custer and Huerfano counties in 2017.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at

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