Special Report filed by AAF Animal Attack Files Special Report
from The Santa Fe New Mexican

      Rottweiler mauls 5-year-old in Alcalde

January 11, 2001


A 5-year-old Alcalde boy was in stable but serious condition Wednesday at Albuquerque's University Medical Center after a Rottweiler chewed off the boy's scalp, according to the Rio Arriba County Sheriff's Department.

The hospital refused to release information on the boy because his parents did not wish to speak to the media, a hospital spokeswoman said Wednesday.

The boy, Stefan Ortega, was walking with a Chihuahua past the house of neighbor Willie Dupree on Sunday night when the chained-up 60- to 70-pound Rottweiler bit the boy, said Rio Arriba County Sheriff Deputy Johnny Vigil Wednesday.

Dupree discovered the unresponsive boy face down with massive head and neck injuries about 5 p.m., Vigil said. The boy had left his house about 45 minutes earlier and was on his way to a neighbor's house when the dog bit him, Vigil said.

"I'm sorry to hear about this boy," said Kate Rindy, executive director of the Santa Fe Animal Shelter and Humane Society. "I think any time an animal is chained, it can be asking for trouble. A dog is going to naturally try to protect its property - its family."

Efforts to reach Dupree were unsuccessful.

Stefan's family drove him to the hospital after they found out what happened, Vigil said, and from there, he was taken to Albuquerque. The youngster had hypothermia, Vigil said.

The 8-year-old Rottweiler is being tested for rabies and is being held at the Española Animal Shelter, Vigil said.

Denise London, Española Animal Shelter manager, said Wednesday the black-and-tan male Rottweiler will be held at the shelter for 10 days to see whether it has rabies. The only way to test for rabies is to euthanize the dog, she said. She added she has no records of a rabies vaccination for the dog, but said it is fairly uncommon for domestic animals to have the disease.

If after 10 days the dog shows no signs of rabies, it will be probably be held at the shelter until authorities decide what to do next, London said. Normally, an owner can pay a fee and recover the dog, she said.

But if the dog shows signs of rabies or dies in 10 days, the boy will begin treatment. The dog will be euthanized and its head sent to a lab for testing, London said.

So far, neither Dupree nor the boy's parents have been charged with anything, Vigil said. "We're still trying to figure out exactly what happened," Vigil said.

Murt Byrne, a veterinarian at the Eldorado Animal Shelter, said it is not uncommon for a dog to bite a child.

In 1989, Josh Garner, a 12-year-old Eldorado boy, was bitten and killed by an animal that was part wolf.

Similarly, in 1989, a malamute-cross attacked a 3-year-old Eldorado boy, Aaron Lenihan. According to published reports, the boy underwent 10 hours of surgery and required years of psychotherapy.

Rottweilers are powerful and intelligent dogs, Byrne said. "Sometimes that makes for a very bad combination," he added. He said rabies is rare in dogs and cats, but it is a potentially fatal disease that can be averted when exposure is suspected.

Rindy said both the dog's owner and Ortega's parents bear responsibility for what happened.

"A child does not know that a dog is going to attack," Rindy said. "Everybody bears a responsibility in it. The dog, in some ways, is the one least at fault here."

© The Santa Fe New Mexican 2000 - All rights reserved

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