Pitbull kills family pet on playground

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A brown and white pitbull wearing a black and white spiked collar attacked and killed a 10-year old terrier at Granada Park on Friday, March 16. The little dog was dead within minutes.

As of the evening of Thursday, March 22, the pitbull had not been positively identified or impounded by animal control staff.

“I’m pretty sure I’ve got the right dog, but it hasn’t been picked up yet,” Alfredo Jojola, animal shelter director said.

Jojola said he had taken a photograph of a brown pitbull that lives in the neighborhood and shown it to the four witnesses, but at least one of them doesn’t agree it’s the dog responsible for the violent attack.

And even if he’s got the right dog, the only thing he can charge the owner with, per the existing city ordinance, is letting it run loose, Jojola said.

The ordinance gives animal control officers the responsibility of destroying any dog they find “in the act of pursuing or wounding livestock or wounding and killing poultry or attacking humans.”

“We didn’t catch him in the act,” Jojola said.

Article III of the ordinance prohibits keeping domestic animals “that demonstrate unprovoked attacks on human beings, or which might have the propensity to attack human beings,” but Jojola said the pitbull didn’t attack a human being.

“Which doesn’t make it right,” he said. “But that’s the ordinance.”

The only other charge that might be filed is for criminal damage to property, however that would have to be filed in Magistrate Court, Jojola said. The animal control violations he’s empowered to cite residents for are handled in municipal court.

The attack happened at noon. Plajeres Zamora had just bought a bicycle for her 8-year-old niece who was visiting her for spring break. The two decided to ride to the nearby park and brought Zamora’s dog, Chicito, with her.

In a statement filed at the Socorro Police Department, Zamora said there was another small child playing in the park. When two pitbulls showed up, they approached her niece, who stopped playing and came over to where Zamora was sitting on the playground equipment. The little boy and one of the dogs left the park, and the other dog came over to the playground equipment where Zamora and her niece were sitting. Chicito came out from where he had been sitting under the slide, and the pitbull attacked.

According to Zamora’s statement, two city workers, Jeremy Montano and Corey Sanchez, pulled up in a city truck, saw what was happening and ran toward them holding shovels. The pitbull let go of the little dog, who was already dead, and started toward Montano and Sanchez, then turned and went back toward Zamora and her niece, who climbed higher on the equipment to get to safety.

Describing the attack, Zamora wrote, “the pit picked up my terrier in the air by his stomach, slamming him into the ground many times.”

When the city workers ran up and the dog let go, little Chicito was already dead. When the pitbull left the park, heading north up the hill, there was blood all over his muzzle and on his chest. Zamora called 911, and tried to comfort her niece, who was crying and shaking.

Zamora said an officer showed up and took a report, walked up the hill and walked back. No one from animal control showed up or followed up with her later.

Jojola said the only animal control officer, Frank Marquez, was tied up Friday, the day of the attack, transporting dogs to the veterinarian to be euthanized, and the police dispatcher never called him.

Dianna Holzheu, a neighborhood resident, said she’s been calling animal control about two pitbulls running loose in the area for months.

“I called the Thursday before it happened because they were chasing my cats,” Holzheu said,

City Clerk Pat Salome said Zamora came to city hall on Tuesday, March 20, and described the attack.

“One dog runs off and the other dog attacks her dog, which is horrible,” Salome said. “The primary purpose of having animal control is to work on situations like that, when the health and safety of residents may be in jeopardy.”

Salome said Jojola had some knowledge of the area and some knowledge of the dogs, and talked to people in the area this week.

“This is something we take seriously, and something the public needs to be aware of. There’s a dog out there that is obviously aggressive that we need to do our best to find. We want to get the right animal.” Salome said. “The idea is to do the right thing, get the right one.”

Salome said when the right dog is found, the owner has a right to defend himself against the charges.

UPDATE: Friday, March 23, at about 11 a.m., Jojola, accompanied by two Socorro police officers, went to the Spring Street home of Leroy Saavedra, the owner of a pitbull Jojola believes to have been involved in the attack. Saavedra was cited, but the dog was not impounded because it was penned up, Jojola said.

Saavedra is due to appear in court on March 27.

“I’ll tell you what, that’s not a vicious dog,” Jojola said.

 


-- Email the author at sbarteau@dchieftain.com.