NM man fatally attacked by dogs, owner facing charges

New Mexico News

NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – A Socorro County man is facing charges after three of his dogs escaped and mauled another man to death. In this small neighborhood of Veguita, ‘beware of dogs’ signs hang on fences at almost every property.

“It’s a mess, the dogs around here,” Phillip Silva, who lives in the area said.

“We have calls all the time of vicious dogs in this area. It’s a really unincorporated part of Socorro County. We do have issues with dogs there. We do what we can but a lot of times we get those calls and when we get out there we can’t find the dogs,” Lt. Richard Lopez with the Socorro County Sheriff’s Office, whose building is about 40 minutes away, said.

This time, it turned fatal. Last week, Lt. Lopez responded to a scene to find a deceased man, identified as Jose Ortega, on the ground. Court documents said his clothes had been ripped off and he had bite marks all over his body. Lt. Lopez said dogs were barking nearby.

“They were highly aggressive towards myself when I got there,” he said. According to court documents, Lt. Lopez had to shoot one dog an animal control officer was struggling with, due to its ‘violent and aggressive nature.’ An animal control officer had to pepper spray other dogs to get away from him.

The dogs belong to Dominic Ribera. Court documents indicate his aggressive dogs were escaping his yard through a hole in his fence, which he was trying to cover while Lt. Lopez was on the scene. He later told law enforcement he was watching television when he heard his dogs making noise and what sounded like a human voice. He said he went outside his trailer and found the victim on the ground.

He said he considered doing CPR but poked him with a stick and realized Ortega was dead. He left him there for hours before calling law enforcement. He said he had to wait until someone with a phone arrived at his house, but Lt. Lopez points out in the criminal complaint that he could’ve gone to a neighbor’s home for help.

“It’s been a mess with those dogs and all the neighbors’ dogs just to say. You know what I mean, they’ve fought with this neighbors’ dogs down the road here, it’s just constantly going on,” Silva said. “They came over to my house before trying to beat up my other two dogs.”

Silva claims he was the one who called Ortega’s niece to let her know her uncle had died. “I had to call the niece and tell her, I don’t know how to tell you this but your uncle passed away. His body’s over here, you need to come right away. She didn’t know how to take it. She still doesn’t know how to take it,” Silva said.

Silva said it should never have gotten this out of hand. “But now that the Animal Control came and took them out, they should’ve done that a long time ago. It shouldn’t take a person’s life,” he said. The sheriff’s office is reminding people to make sure any aggressive animals they own are secured.

“You have a right to own your property and you have a right to own a dog that is aggressive. But you have to make sure that animal is secured,” Lt. Lopez said. “It was very clear when I got there that they were dangerous and there wasn’t any proper enclosures for them.”

A total of four grown dogs and six puppies Ribera owned were seized from his property. They all were euthanized after showing aggressive behavior. “These puppies were extremely aggressive, they would growl at us like an adult dog and it was determined they probably were not going to be the best dogs to be adopted. They showed a lot of aggression,” Lt. Lopez said.

Ribera is charged with possession of a dangerous dog that caused the death of a human being without provocation, tampering with evidence, and failure to report a death.

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