By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
By Michael Roberts
By Melanie Asmar
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
Rocky Mountain Animal Defense was out prowling again this weekend, protesting the use of dogs in labs at the University of Colorado medical school. The group had already made the papers several times this year, even convincing Nederland state representative Tom Plant to propose a bill that would ban med-school experimentation on mutts. "It is simply not necessary to kill dogs while teaching our future physicians to heal," says RMAD member Dan Hanley. "We will keep the heat on until no more dogs are killed."
In that case, RMAD may want to turn its puppy-dog eyes south to La Plata County, where Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell's nephew, Ellis Longfellow, recently blew away a dog belonging to one of Campbell's neighbors -- and the Senator himself would have sent a second canine to doggie heaven if he had been a better shot. Since Longfellow's actions took place on his uncle's Ignacio ranch, they weren't illegal; the dogs were at large and reportedly harassing both Campbell's dogs and his family. But when Campbell got in his truck and chased another dog off the ranch, firing at it (and missing) across a county road and into the Southern Ute Indian Reservation, he did break the law, earning himself a $250 fine and a sentence of ten hours' community service. (Campbell did that service over the Labor Day weekend at the Four Corners Iron Horse Motorcycle Rally, which he helped found in 1993 -- a punishment that's akin to making Jerry Lewis work his own muscular dystrophy telethon.)
"I call it the 'un-incident,'" says Charley Flagg, head of the tribal police force, explaining that the dogs -- both Akitas belonging to Campbell's neighbors Jim Nall and Yarri Soteros -- were fighting with one of Campbell's dogs, a German shepherd mix. "They were knotted up pretty good -- it wasn't just a wrestlin' match. They were trying to kill [Campbell's] dog. Apparently there have been complaints about both dogs running loose before." Nothing would have come of the August 12 "un-incident," he adds, if Campbell wasn't a senator. Perhaps. But Campbell is a senator, and, although the newspapers didn't report it, this wasn't the first time he'd gotten embroiled in a Hatfield and McCoy-type of feud with these particular neighbors. As Flagg himself points out, "There has certainly been bad blood between the Campbells and the Nalls."
In October 1998, Nall claimed that Campbell was using his political influence to deny him and another neighbor their share of the irrigation water that runs through Campbell's ranch on its way to their ranches. The dispute got ugly when Campbell's wife, Linda, and son Colingot into a shouting match with Nall the next month. After that, a judge issued a restraining order against Colin Campbell, which remains in place. In June 1999, though, the matter was otherwise resolved when Campbell paid for separate pipelines and ditches for himself and Nall.
Nall was out of town during the dog shootings (the dead dog, by the way, was a tri-colored Akita named Bear) and now doesn't want to talk for the record about his dogs or the water dispute or the Campbells, but according to his wife, Soteros, the Campbells' dogs are no saints. She's caught them teasing her dogs many times, she says, "running at large and threatening and harassing us, our son and our horses."
Soteros has twice written letters to the La Plata County Animal Control Department outlining the alleged transgressions by Campbell's dogs. But Tonya Kahler, who works with animal control as the director of the county's humane society, says the letters weren't very helpful: "I did some research to see if there were multiple calls about dogs at large in that area, and no, it is a quiet area for us. It's not a hot spot in our county. There was only one call down there, so if they [Nall and Soteros] are trying to call it a problem area, they sure haven't asked us for help through the proper channels." Kahler did forward the letters from Soteros to the local district attorney, however, so that the DA's office can decide if it wants to investigate.
In rural Colorado, Kahler explains, the real dilemma is a certain mentality that lets pets roam free, resulting in hundreds of calls about dogs at large and numerous cases, many of them unreported, of dogs being shot. "It's a huge problem down here," she says. "People think that since they live in the country, their dog can lay on the porch all day and will be a wonderful dog, but they are fooled if they think that. There is no such thing as a harmless dog at large."
And the Campbells' pets are no exception. "It's something I'm afraid everybody is a party to," she sighs.
Just roll over: Bear's tragic fate may have been preferable to that of a Denver-area Chow that probably wishes it were dead, however. According to court records, the Chow was...um...violated by a 38-year-old Mexican man recently living in Denver and working for a construction company. Although information in the Denver County Court file is sketchy and the city attorney's office refuses to release any information on the case, a person who works in the court system and had read the police notes -- but doesn't want to be identified -- says the details of the incident, which apparently occurred on June 22, are grim. The man, who gives new meaning to the term "dog lover," was scheduled to appear in court on August 15 for a jury trial but failed to appear, disappointing numerous courtroom employees and officials who had familiarized themselves with the rare bestiality case. The no-show may have been for the best, one court employee points out, since "I don't know how you find him a jury of his peers."