An autopsy confirmed that a 13-year-old girl was killed by a pack of dogs as she walked near her family’s home on the Navajo Nation in Arizona in mid-May.
Lyssa Rose Upshaw had extensive injuries consistent with canine tooth marks, including cuts and grazes on her neck and head and deep soft tissue injuries on her legs.
Her clothes were torn and she was covered in dirt, according to an autopsy requested by The Associated Press and released this week by the Coconino County Medical Examiner’s Office.
The sprawling Navajo Nation only has five animal control officers to cover a sprawling area. Above, dogs fight in the street during a raid in the Navajo community of Sundance near Gallup, New Mexico
The Navajo Nation spans over 27,000 square miles across the southwestern states
Her mother, Marissa ‘Ris’ Rose Jones, suspected the dogs were to blame since seeing her daughter curled up on a dirt road on May 16 at Fort Defiance, but she was awaiting an official cause.
“I never thought that would ever happen to my daughter,” she said. “She was a dog lover.
Jones had allowed her to go for a walk on a jogging track on a hill as long as she was back at 5:30 p.m.
As she did not show up at 5:45 p.m., she sent her son to pick her up.
By 6 p.m. Jones had enlisted his sisters and cousins in the research, according to the Navajo Times.
Jones says she was also bitten on the arm by a dog, part of a “around 20” pack belonging to her cousin’s neighbor, as she walked in search of her daughter.
When Jones reunited with her daughter, “her legs were all chewed up,” she recalls.
‘She was gone.’
The neighboring family hid the dogs as animal control arrived, but 12 of them were later arrested as evidence.
“They hid the dogs that attacked and killed my daughter from animal control,” she wrote in a Facebook post dated May 17. “What’s wrong with these people?” ”
Fort Defiance is located in Apache County, most of which is part of the Navajo Nation.
The medical examiner classified Upshaw’s death as accidental.
The deadly attack has renewed discussion across the reservation on how to hold people accountable for their pets.
Some 250,000 stray and neglected dogs roam the Navajo Nation, according to estimates released by the Santa Fe New Mexican.
Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez (center) vetoed a recent resolution to establish criminal penalties for dog owners who cause fatal attacks, saying more comment is needed.
A quarter of a million stray and neglected dogs are estimated to roam the Navajo Nation
Tribal lawmakers recently passed a resolution to establish criminal penalties, but Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez vetoed it, saying it didn’t go far enough and needed more comment.
There are only five officers to help combat dog attacks throughout the Navajo Nation, which spans more than 27,000 square miles across Arizona, New Mexico and the Utah.
According to the Navajo Times, animal control officers are currently not allowed to issue citations for dog attacks because they are not commissioned officers of the Navajo Police Department.
At least a handful of deaths in the region over the years have been blamed on dog packs, and scores of others have been injured.
None of the tribe’s animal control laws, which are considered civil offenses, hold dog owners accountable for deaths.
In the meantime, Nez said he would approve $ 1.2 million to hire more animal control officers.
Michael Henderson, the tribe’s director of criminal investigations, said tribal charges were being considered in Upshaw’s death as authorities gathered more evidence and awaited the results of specimens taken from dogs that belonged to a neighbor.
“The case is far enough from being closed, far from just being put aside as an accident or civil matter or something like that,” he said.
“We are still pursuing very aggressively to understand the case as far as if there are criminal elements related to what happened. “
The FBI is doing some of the lab tests.
Henderson said he spoke to federal prosecutors whose initial response was that the case could not be charged under a limited set of crimes over which the federal government has jurisdiction over tribal lands.
Tribes have concurrent jurisdiction but often seek federal charges because they carry far more severe penalties than those provided by tribal law.
The maximum jail time the Navajo Nation could impose for any crime, no matter how serious, is one year.
Esther Winne, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Arizona, could not say whether Upshaw’s case has been referred to federal prosecutors.
The FBI did not respond to a message from the PA.
Jones said his “little girl” who wanted to be part of the high school cross country team deserved more compassion and sympathy from the neighbors who owned the dogs and more attention from the investigators in charge of. the case.
She called for jail time and fines for anyone found responsible, although Henderson admitted there was no clear path.
“I hope and pray that my daughter will get justice,” Jones said.