A Navajo Nation mother demands better enforcement of animal control after her 13-year-old daughter was mauled by a neighbor’s dogs earlier this year.
Back in May, Lyssa Rose Upshaw was killed while walking near her home in Fort Defiance, on the Navajo Nation. Her mother, Marissa Jones, told the Navajo Times the young teen was found curled up in a ball with her clothes in shreds and her legs “all chewed up.”
An autopsy recently confirmed the girl died from wounds sustained in an attack by multiple dogs, the Associated Press reports, but Jones knew from the start that her daughter had been mauled to death by her neighbor’s two dozen “mean” dogs. She told the outlet:
“Those dogs killed my baby girl. This wasn’t supposed to happen.”
Lyssa’s death was ruled accidental, but the investigation into the mauling remains open. Navajo Police Department’s Criminal Investigations Director Michael Henderson said detectives are looking to see if the incident involved “any criminal elements,” telling the AP:
“The case is pretty far from being closed, far from being just put aside as an accident or a civil matter or anything like that. We’re still very aggressively pursuing to understand the case to the extent to where if there are any criminal elements attached to what happened.”
Tragically, Lyssa isn’t the first person to be attacked by free-roaming dogs on tribal lands, known as “rez dogs.” According to the AP, tribal lawmakers recently passed a resolution to establish criminal penalties for violent dog attacks, but officials wouldn’t say whether Lyssa’s case has been referred to federal prosecutors.
The Navajo Nation has five animal control officers and an estimated 250,000 free-ranging dogs. Jones said the Nation already has good animal control laws, but needs to enforce them more regularly. She told the Times:
“They need to go from house to house and see how many dogs people have. When I was in NHA housing, I just had one pit bull and they made me get rid of it. But when you live off by yourself, people have seven, 10, 12 dogs and nobody says anything.”
Lyssa would be the fifth person killed by dogs on the Navajo Nation since 2010. The other victims include a 56-year-old man near Gallup in 2010; an 8-year-old boy in Pine Hill, New Mexico, in 2012; a 3-year-old boy in Seba Dalkai, Arizona, in 2016; and a woman in Kayenta in the fall of 2020.
Donations for Lyssa’s funeral expenses can be made via Zelle to Delia Nez, 480-569-9113. Our hearts go out to her loved ones at this difficult time.
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