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Phoenix dog owner facing homicide charge after fatal attack near 6th Street and Broadway Road

Alejandro Hernandez
Posted at 7:05 PM, Jul 06, 2021

PHOENIX — Police say a 77-year-old Valley woman has died after being attacked by dogs in Phoenix Tuesday morning.

Officials say just after 7 a.m., officers were called to the area of 6th Street and Broadway Road for reports of a woman who was being attacked by dogs.

When crews arrived on scene, they found Maria Ruiz in critical condition. Police say she was transported to the hospital where she later died from her injuries.

Ruiz's daughter says, "they took the one they love the most and can never get her back."

Investigators learned Ruiz was on her front porch when she was attacked by four Staffordshire Terrier-mix dogs owned by 33-year-old Alejandro Hernandez.

Alejandro Hernandez

Police say Hernandez has been contacted in the past by Maricopa County Animal Care about his dogs escaping and was instructed on at least one occasion to fix a gate to keep the dogs secured. He was also issued license warnings.

MCACC workers were able to capture the dogs while police took Hernandez into custody. Officials say due to the nature of the call, one of the dogs is being tested for rabies.

Police say Hernandez told them the dogs had escaped multiple times in the past, and that they had gone after and bitten neighbors. He is now facing one count of negligent homicide.

Blake Mayes, an attorney with MayesTelles PLLC, says Arizona’s dog bite law is a “strict liability” law.

“If you own a dog that bites somebody else without provocation, provocation as a defense, then you are strictly liable - meaning they don't have to prove anything. They don't have to prove that you did something wrong. They don't have to prove that you were negligent. You're simply liable,” says Mayes.

Offenders are liable for medical bills along with pain and suffering. Some homeowners insurance or renters insurance do cover dog bites.

Attorney Blake Mayes says that is really the only source of recourse for the dog owner. Medical bills can be in the thousands or tens of thousands.

A GoFundMe page has been set up to help the Ruiz family. If you would like to help, you can donate here.