New Mexico town may put a leash on free-roaming dog

The town of Elephant Butte, N.M., is at odds over whether or not to leash Blue, the free-roaming Australian Cattle Dog that has become somewhat of a town mascot.

Blue outside New Mexico’s Butte General Store and Marine with an unnamed patron. (Photo credit: Facebook)

Town officials were prompted to consider mandatory leash laws for dogs after a tragic incident last spring, when loose dogs fatally mauled a woman in the nearby town of Truth or Consequences. That’s when they created Animal Control Ordinance 131, which states that all dogs must be on leashes while in public.

But the same leash law intended to keep people safe could affect Blue’s quality of life, and many of the town’s residences want to make sure that Blue is exempt from the new requirements.

Blue’s story began 10 years ago, when the pup was abandoned at the town’s Casa Taco restaurant. The friendly dog has been an Elephant Butte staple ever since. Casa Taco’s owner served as Blue’s unofficial caretaker until about two years ago, when the owner died. Blue then made his way over to the Butte General Store and Marine, where he still lives today.

The store’s owners, husband and wife Bob Owen and Janice Connor, say that Blue is a beloved town fixture.

“Kids demand their parents stop [their car], because they want to go say hi to Blue,” Owen explains. “They’ve got to come see Blue.”

The 11-year-old Australian Cattle Dog seems content to have no place to go; though several attempts have been made to adopt him, Blue always makes his way back to the general store, the place he considers home. “We’ve tried to take him home; he won’t stay in a home,” Owen says.

Town officials plan to hold a City Council meeting June 13 to decide what to do about Blue. Owen recently became Blue’s official owner, hoping that in taking that step he could serve as Blue’s representative at the meeting.

“The entire community takes care of him,” Owen says of Blue. “He stays up on his shots, he’s been neutered, he’s a well cared-for dog, he’s been trained by this community, and he has trained the community.”

Elephant Butte residents and visitors love Blue, donating over $1,800 towards a checking account set up for the Australian Cattle Dog. Blue also has a doghouse with heating and cooling options and his very own Facebook page.

Albuquerque attorney Hilary Noskin has taken a special interest in Blue’s situation, and is serving as his legal representative. She hopes to help convince town officials to allow the dog to live out the rest of his years untethered.

“He’s one of my favorite clients,” Noskin says of the Australian Cattle Dog. “He is a sweet, sweet dog.”