Animal Welfare

City Steps Up Loose Dog Enforcement in Area Near Fatal Attack

One of the biggest impediments against the city of Dallas stopping dog attacks like the one that killed Antoinette Brown in South Dallas last week is that the city, no matter how many reports it receives about a bad dog owner or how many dogs it confiscates from that owner, can't stop someone from buying more dogs. There's no law against it, Dallas code compliance director Kris Sweckard told reporters gathered near the scene of Brown's mauling Thursday morning, so much of what the city can do is essentially triage.

Beginning in 2013, Dallas Animal Services received at least 10 calls about the address from which the seven dogs suspected of attacking Brown were eventually confiscated, according to Dallas police. In 2014, the owner of the property surrendered 10 dogs to animal services after repeated visits to the property. The next year, three more dogs living on the property on Rutledge Street were surrendered and put down after neighbors reported an attack in progress.

As DAS says it is looking into ways to make the owners of loose and problem dogs have greater legal responsibility, it is taking some concrete action in the area where Brown was attacked. Rutledge and the streets around it will be targeted as part of the DAS hot-spot program that began late last year. Traps are being set. Foot patrols are being stepped up with the help of the Dallas Police Department, and the city manager's office is looking for ways to improve a broken enforcement mechanism.

"Since DAS learned about the attack, we've saturated the area with patrols, traps and additional DPD and DAS resources. DAS and DPD are creating a process to identify and share escalated incidents and information about repeat offenders. I have also asked the marshal’s office to review and prioritize criteria for serving warrants resulting from animal citations," City Manager A.C. Gonzalez said in a statement Wednesday. "The safety of residents is our top priority. For the long-term, we are evaluating a variety of tools to help influence the human behavior that leads to dogs running loose in our streets. These areas include education, enhanced enforcement of existing ordinances and possible creation of new ordinances. In addition, we are seeking ways to criminalize irresponsible behavior. That will only be possible by changes to state laws."

Gonzalez blamed the slow response to the attack on a communication breakdown between DAS and DPD.

"We have identified several communication gaps as the events of the last week unfolded. DPD did not immediately notify DAS about the attack, which is why DAS responded over the next few days to subsequent calls for loose dogs as routine calls," Gonzalez said. 
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Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He's a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.
Contact: Stephen Young