After examining the victims, experts say at least 10 dogs were involved in each attack, but others think the injuries were not caused by dogs.
MEXICO CITY — Stray dogs mauled and killed four people whose bodies were found over the past two weeks in a park on the edge of Mexico City, authorities said Monday. In one case, a teenage girl frantically called her sister with her cellphone to plead for help as the attack took place.
Neighbors of the Cerro de la Estrella, a partly wooded, hilltop park surrounded by the city's poor and populous Iztapalapa district, first found the bodies of a 26-year-old woman and a 1-year-old child in the area Dec. 29, authorities in Mexico's capital said.
The woman, Shunashi Mendoza, was missing her left arm, and prosecutors said that both she and the boy had bled to death and been partially eaten.
On Friday, visitors to the park found the bodies of a teenage couple who had also bled to death.
"Experts have established that due to the gravity of the wounds, at least 10 dogs were involved in each attack," Mexico City prosecutors said in a statement.
In the second attack, Alejandra Ruiz, 15, and her boyfriend Samuel Martinez, 16, had gone to the park Friday afternoon.
The girl called her sister, Diana Ruiz, at 7 p.m. pleading for help.
"Several dogs are attacking us, help me!" the girl screamed. Then the call was disconnected.
Ruiz told Milenio Television she thought her sister was joking and still doesn't believe her sister was killed by dogs despite the call.
"What kind of dog can tear the skin from your whole arm and leave just bone, and if it was an attack dog, why didn't it attack her neck?" Ruiz asked. "What's most shocking is that one of her breasts was mutilated."
She said she later visited the place of the attack and saw no pools of blood. "There needs to be a thorough investigation," she added.
Antemio Maya, president of the Street Dog Protection association in Mexico City, also doubts that dogs could have killed the people found in the park.
"It's not the behavior of street dogs to kill humans," Maya said.
Maya said authorities should focus on sterilizing pets and educating people about pet ownership instead of spreading the idea of killer animals.
"The authorities trapped beagles, Maltese, poodles; can you imagine how long it would take for them to kill a person?" he asked.
"A lot of people get tired of their dogs, and they simply throw them on the streets," he said. "This is going to create a terrible hate for street dogs, and that's going to lead to even more abuse."
Mexico City Public Safety Secretary Jesus Rodriguez told Milenio Television that the bodies were not dumped in the area, as some had suggested. He said the victims had bite wounds that were inflicted while they were alive and others after they had died.
He warned against visiting the park and said all the dogs in the area will be trapped and checked to see if they were involved.
At least 100 police officers were scouring the park in search of stray dogs. They had trapped 25 by Monday night: 10 females, eight males and seven puppies. The dogs had been living in caves and crevices in the park, prosecutors said.
Experts are testing the dogs' hair for traces of human blood and will also test their stomach contents. Authorities did not say what they would do with the animals.
SYMPATHY FOR THE DOGS
The fatal mauling by the feral dogs has set off debate about the city's love/hate relationship with its dog population, and about the guilt or innocence of 25 animals trapped near the scene of the killings.
Mexico City's mayor says the government will launch a new program to spay and neuter the thousands of dogs who wander the city. Animal advocates are calling for Mexico City residents to question a pet culture that often treats dogs as disposable.
Newspaper photos of the forlorn, skinny strays captured in the wooded, hilltop park where a woman, her baby and a teenage couple were killed in two separate incidents set off a Twitter campaign protesting their innocence and calling on Tuesday for authorities not to euthanize them.
Several of the dogs in the photos looked like domestic pets, suggesting the dogs were abandoned animals or their offspring who had formed a pack or packs in the hilltop park.
Iztapalapa is a massive and poor district on the eastern outskirts of Mexico City, and stray dogs roam many of its streets. Hundreds of thousands of spectators gather every Holy Week in the Cerro de la Estrella park to watch a re-enactment of the mock crucifixion of Christ.
Mexico City's famed Chapultepec Park, in the city's center, also has feral dogs living in wooded areas, but there have been reports of only minor attacks on people.
In that case, animal rights activists have urged authorities not to kill the dogs but spay them and either leaving them in the park or finding them homes.