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PINE HILL, N.M. (AP) — An 8-year-old boy in northwestern New Mexico who died after being mauled by dogs was found face-down and unresponsive by his mother, a police official said Sunday.
Cibola County Undersheriff Tony Mace said one of the nine dogs captured and euthanized after the attack had belonged to boy's family and was reported to have bitten the child on a previous occasion. "It's a horrible, horrible situation," Mace said of the child's death.
Tomas Jay Henio died Wednesday near his family's home in Pine Hill, located more than 100 miles west of Albuquerque.
The family dog and eight strays were euthanized.
Authorities will gather DNA samples from the euthanized dogs to determine which ones were involved in the attack.
The sheriff's office played an assisting role in the case by sending an animal control officer to round up the dogs and isn't investigating the child's death.
The FBI was investigating the death because the attack happened on Navajo Nation land.
The federal agency and tribal police in nearby Ramah didn't return a phone call seeking comment Sunday.
The Navajo Nation, like many reservations, has long had a problem with roaming stray, feral and neglected dogs.
Two years ago, 55-year-old Larry Armstrong was found mauled to death near his home in the small community of Sundance near Gallup. Armstrong had a history of seizures, and authorities never determined whether the dogs or a seizure felled him.
But the case, in which emergency workers said the pack of skinny dogs kept circling back, underscored the problems the Navajo Nation has with roaming, often near starving dogs.
After Armstrong's death, Navajo National wildlife and animal control manager Kevin Gleason in 2011 estimated there were four to five dogs for each of the more than 89,000 households — or as many as 445,000 dogs, most of which roam unchecked, killing livestock and biting people with alarming regularity.