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Feral dogs blamed for five deaths in Mexico City park

January 10, 2013

Mexico City dogs

Authorities in Mexico City have rounded up 54 stray dogs in a bid to find those they say were responsible for the deaths of five people over the last month.

From December 18 to January 5, five mauled bodies were discovered in the Cerro de la Estrella, a semi-wooded hilltop park in the impoverished Iztapalapa neighborhood in the eastern outskirts of the capital. Forensic experts said the victims died of blood loss, with the severity of their injuries indicating that they were attacked by a pack of at least 10 feral dogs.

The first victim, Ana Nataret, 15, was killed in the Cerro de la Estrella on December 18. Shumashi Mendoza and her one-year-old son were then found dead in the same park on December 29.

Local police took no action to prevent further cases and a week later Alejandra Ruiz, 15, and her boyfriend Samuel Martinez, 16, were also killed. Alejandra reportedly called her sister, Diana Ruiz, pleading, “Several dogs are attacking us, help me!” before the call ended abruptly.

Having caught 54 dogs in the park this week, local authorities said they were testing their fur, claws and faeces in order to determine whether they had killed and partially eaten the victims. They are still awaiting the results of the tests, although checks for rabies all came back negative.

Once the Attorney General’s Office (PGJDF) completes its investigation, the dogs will be put up for adoption, returned to their estranged owners or donated to animal protection shelters. Mexico City Mayor Miguel Mancera said the dogs will be sterilized but not put down.

“We will respect the animal protection law and the truth is we have never talked of euthanizing them,” Mancera affirmed. He also announced that 25 mobile surgical units will lead a free sterilization program to reduce the number of strays that roam the city streets.

Unwanted pets are routinely abandoned in parks across Mexico and there are huge numbers of stray dogs in the capital, but it remains extremely rare for them to attack and kill humans. Experts say that when large numbers of feral dogs form a pack together they have been known to chase and attack people – especially if the victims’ turn their backs and run – yet several relatives of the victims in this case have voiced scepticism over how they are said to have died.

Diana Ruiz and Samuel Martinez’s brother Enrique told Spanish-language daily Milenio that the victims carried wounds that were inflicted by humans, not dogs. The Mexico City Human Rights Commission (CDHDF) is investigating whether the autopsies were carried out properly.

The families of Ruiz and Martinez also said the deaths “could have been avoided” because police did not investigate the area until January 5, despite the previous killings. Upon further investigation this week, the police discovered a cave in the park in which satanic rituals had apparently been held, fueling rumors that its occupants could have been involved in the killings.

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