Animal Welfare

South Dallas Dogs Could Get Expensive for Owners, City

According to Dallas Police, the reason the department took so long to publicly announce the fatal mauling of a southern Dallas woman last week was that investigators didn't want the owner of the dogs that attacked Antoinette Brown to ditch the canines. Five days after the attack, when the department finally disclosed what happened, it announced that six dogs had been seized from the area near a vacant lot in the 3300 block of Rutledge Avenue by a combination of Dallas police officers and Dallas Animal Services personnel.

Brown, who died Monday night at Baylor University Medical Center, was reportedly bitten more than 100 times by a group of dogs early in the morning of May 2. Dallas Police Chief David Brown, while declining to give any further details about the case, said on Twitter Sunday that the owner of the dogs that attacked Brown could face criminal charges.

If police can prove that any of the six dogs picked up last week were among those that attacked Brown, their owner could face prison time, if he or she is found to be negligent with regard to the care of the dogs or to have had criminal intent, says Ronald Berman, a California-based professional trainer who often serves as an expert in dog attack cases.

As southern Dallas' loose and feral dog problem continues, additional attacks could cause financial problems for both the city and neighbors. If, for instance, someone were to be attacked on a sidewalk or walking in a public street, Dallas Animal Services could be on the hook for damages.

"[City animal service department's] are usually doing the best they can with limited resources, limited training and limited people. Sometimes no training — the only education they have is on the job," Berman says, but that doesn't mean they won't be held liable for damaging attacks made by dogs that should've otherwise been picked up. Similarly, he says, anyone in the area who's been feeding the feral dogs could be considered the dogs' caretaker and might be subject to prosecution.

Berman says that the best thing Dallas residents confronted by dogs can do is to attempt to back away from the group of dogs as quickly as possible without running, making themselves as small as possible. Screaming, as police report that Brown did, is unlikely to scare off a group of dogs, according to Berman, because there will always be a couple of dogs in a pack that aren't cowed.

"Dogs, like people, are always more confident in a group. Screaming may work with one or two dogs, but in a group of 10 there's going to be some more dominant dog that's going to feel bolstered by the fact that he's got nine other dogs behind him," Berman says. "He'll go [attack], and as soon as he goes the other dogs will go with him. ... Any dog who is hungry is dangerous, but when they are in a pack, they revert back to pack behavior."