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Mexico City confronts street dog menace

09 january 2013, 12:40
Mexico City authorities chased down stray dogs Tuesday to find the canines behind the grisly killing of four people, angering pet defenders who say the animals are wrongly accused, AFP reports.

The discovery of two dead teenagers as well as a mother with a one-year-old baby in a city park is the talk of the town in Mexico's capital, where many dogs often roam free or are pampered by pet lovers.

The capital's health department said Tuesday that some 1,000 people suffer serious dog bites every year in a metropolitan area of 20 million people.

A 2008 study found that three million abandoned dogs roam the streets.

Authorities captured 25 dogs, including seven puppies, on Monday at the wooded park in Iztapalapa district where the four bodies were found last week.

The city prosecutor's office released photos of the dogs behind bars, sparking sympathy for the feral animals.

Animal control units looked for more dogs on Tuesday while forensics experts tested the dogs and the victims to find the culprit.

At least 25 mobile veterinarian units will be deployed in the coming days to spay or neuter dogs across the city.

After activists voiced doubt that dogs could have killed four people, city prosecutor Rodolfo Rios held an evening news conference to insist that the victims suffered horrific canine bite marks.

The flesh of the victims was torn off, "exposing bones," while body parts were "ripped off and crushed," Rios said, saying the attack bore the hallmarks of "canine bites."

A Twitter hashtag #Yosoycan26 (inspired by the student protest group #YoSoy132) and two Facebook pages were created to protest the treatment of the captured dogs, with many doubting that they were killers.

"Sure, a gang of killer puppies -- what's Mexico's government going to fabricate next? Baby parrots laundering money?" wrote Gil with the Twitter handle @amadorlicea.

Others blamed those who abandon dogs in this city, where dog lovers crowd city parks and get them cleaned up in mobile pet grooming vans.

"If the dogs of #YoSoyCan26 killed someone, remember that behind each one of them there is an irresponsible owner," wrote @ChristianJavan.

Jose Luis Carranza, a member of the Citizen Front for Animal Rights, told AFP his organization wants the city to give them the dogs and investigate who was responsible for the attacks.

"We don't deny that the bodies have bites, but we don't believe that they are the cause of death. The dogs are scavengers and they could have eaten bodies that were already there," he said.

Authorities said captured dogs will be given to animal rights organizations if they are not claimed by their owners, though they did not say what would happen to the culprits.

Prosecutors say the bodies of Shunashi Elizabeth Mendoza Caamal, 26, and her one-year-old baby were found partially eaten on December 29 in the Cerro de la Estrella national park.

The young couple -- 15 and 16 years old -- were found on January 5 in another part of the park and their bodies were also torn apart by dog bites.

But relatives of the couple said they did not believe the pair died from dog bites.

They said the bodies showed signs of having been murdered by humans, adding that there was no blood found on the scene where the bodies were discovered.

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