April 26, 2011 / 1:36 AM / 6 years ago

Woman mauled to death by pit bulls in New Mexico

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SANTA FE, New Mexico (Reuters) - A woman has been mauled to death by a pack of four pit bulls in the town of Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, authorities said on Monday.

Margaret Salcedo, 48, was walking alone when the dogs, which had escaped from a fenced yard at a private home, attacked her at an intersection on Sunday afternoon, Truth or Consequences Police Chief Patrick Gallagher said.

A passerby in a car opened his door to intervene, but he stayed in the vehicle when a dog charged him, police said.

"The officer arrived on the scene in less than three minutes, but it must have felt like an eternity to the poor woman being attacked," Gallagher told Reuters.

One of the dogs charged the officer, who shot and injured the animal, police said. All four dogs ran off, and the officer administered first aid to the wounded woman.

Salcedo was bitten on all her extremities and lost a lot of blood, Gallagher said. She was taken to a hospital, where she died within hours, he said.

The dogs were later located, and the animal that had been shot was dead from its injuries.

The other three dogs were taken to an animal shelter, but authorities said they will not make a determination on whether to destroy them until the conclusion of their investigation.

The dogs belonged to a couple named John and Maria Hardiman, who were not present during the attack, police said.

New Mexico State Police officials were conferring with the local District Attorney's Office to determine if criminal charges are warranted.

Truth or Consequences is about 150 miles south of Albuquerque, and the town named after a television game show in 1950 is popular for its hot springs.

Reporting by Zelie Polon; Writing by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Jerry Norton

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