‘He had extreme compassion for animals and people’: Community mourns 14-year-old killed in Dighton dog mauling

“He was a silent leader that had a contagious smile and loved to make people laugh.”

Mourners gathered Saturday in Swansea to celebrate the life of a 14-year-old boy who was mauled to death by dogs in Dighton earlier this month.

Hundreds of people attended a memorial for Ryan Hazel, a Rehoboth teen who was a freshman in the community health program at Bristol-Plymouth Regional Technical School, WCVB reports. The remembrance was held at His Providence Church.

Many of the mourners wore Hazel’s favorite color — green — and the 14-year-old’s jersey number was on display outside the church. A private burial followed.

His family wrote in his obituary that the teen played football and ran track and field for his high school. At a young age, they wrote, Ryan knew he wanted to “work in the medical field.”

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“He enjoyed riding horses and his ATV,” the family wrote. “He had extreme compassion for animals and people. He was a silent leader that had a contagious smile and loved to make people laugh.”

On May 9, Ryan was driven by his grandmother to care for dogs and other animals at a property on Maple Swamp Road in Dighton. The Bristol District Attorney’s office says the 14-year-old had been helping care for the animals on a regular basis for about a year.

Ryan’s grandmother was waiting in the car while he went to care for the animals, but when he didn’t return in the time it usually took him to complete his tasks, she called his parents, who asked a neighbor to check on the teen.

The 14-year-old was found in the backyard with “traumatic injuries,” according to the DA’s office. Four dogs were also found running loose in the yard, and another seven were found inside the home. The teen was pronounced dead at the scene by first responders, and all the dogs were removed from the property by authorities.

Ryan’s death remains under investigation by authorities. The DA’s office said foul play is not suspected, and the owner of the property and the animals is cooperating with investigators.