Officers from the county sheriff’s office investigated the incident in Veguita.
File photo

Four dogs killed a man in Veguita on Monday, May 24. The owner of the dogs could face jail time. 

The Socorro County Sheriff’s Department responded to a call about a man being killed by dogs at approximately 2:30 p.m. in the afternoon near Lorella Court in Veguita, according to the criminal complaint against the dogs’ owner Dominic Ribera. 

The victim’s clothing had been ripped from his body and he had bite marks throughout his body. His left arm had severe damage, the complaint states. 

The criminal complaint lists three counts against Ribera: possession of a dangerous dog or alternatively involuntary manslaughter, failure to report a death, and tampering with evidence. 

Ribera told officers that he found the body around 11 a.m. but waited almost three hours to report the death because he did not have a phone. Ribera waited until his brother-in-law returned home and borrowed his phone. The complaint notes that there are “numerous neighbors in the area, including the victim’s family,” who lived less than 150 yards away.  

Responding officers shot and killed one of the dogs because it was attacking them, said Lieutenant Richard Lopez. Lopez responded to the incident along with the county’s animal control officer. The other three dogs were relinquished by Ribera and taken to the Socorro Animal Shelter. Blood samples were taken from their fur and placed in evidence, according to the complaint. 

The complaint states that as Lopez was investigating the scene, he saw Ribera place several wooden objects against the south fence on the yard, covering a hole in the fence where dog tracks could be seen. It appeared the dogs were using the hole to escape the yard, the complaint states. 

Ribera said that one of the dogs taken into custody had recently bitten a neighbor, the complaint states. One of the victim’s relatives also told officers that another of Ribera’s dogs had to be killed recently by a man who lives in the neighborhood after it attacked his animals. 

There have been numerous complaints about aggressive dogs running loose and causing issues in the area, said Lopez, but it has been difficult to prove that it was these dogs causing the issues.  Neighbors have previously asked Ribera to better secure his dogs, according to the complaint. 

A total of 10 dogs were taken from the property – the four adult dogs believed to be involved in the incident and six puppies.

Socorro County has only had an animal control officer within the last year, said Lopez, and prior to that sheriff’s deputies were also responsible for animal control. 

“With the new animal control officer, we’re hoping to get a grip on this issue,” said Lopez. “But really it comes down to pet owners being responsible. If you have an animal that’s vicious and you have an animal that’s prone to attack somebody, you are criminally liable for it in this type of matter.”


Cathy Cook, El Defensor Chieftain