Animal Welfare

Dallas Cites Progress, But Pleads For More Time To Fully Implement Loose Dog Plan

Three playful puppies at Dallas Animal Services. More dogs are making it out of shelters alive, the city says.
Three playful puppies at Dallas Animal Services. More dogs are making it out of shelters alive, the city says. Mark Graham
Yesterday, Dallas Animal Services officials told the City Council there was progress in the effort to deal with the estimated 8,000 loose dogs roaming South Dallas. Still, Dallas Police Department Major Barbara Hobbs said Monday, the department needs more time to transition from enforcement to education with Dallas residents.

Since Hobbs took over Dallas Animal Services three months ago, DAS has picked up about 3,100 loose dogs from Dallas streets, largely thanks to the hiring of new animal control officers and adding an overnight shift.

Over the same period in 2015, DAS picked up about 2,000 dogs. Citations for owners who've failed to appropriately care for their dogs are up almost 200 percent, as well.

Implementing the recommendations of the Boston Consulting Group — the firm brought in by the city following the dog mauling death of Antoinette Brown in early May — is going well, Hobbs told the City Council's Quality of Life Committee.

"I believe we have a good start, but I don't believe that within three months we can say that we're on top of it," Hobbs said in response to Dallas City Council member Rickey Callahan asking if DAS was "getting on top" of the dog problem. "We know the direction that we need to go. The BCG recommendations obviously are working; we're using them as a blueprint. That's how we stay focused. There are a lot of rabbit trails that we could go on, but that's how we stay on the primary mission of public safety."

Beyond the triage measure of picking up as many dogs as possible, Hobbs says that DAS is also beginning to see more dogs make it out of shelters alive — adoptions from DAS shelters were up about 15 percent during the three months that Hobbs has been in charge compared with the same period in 2015 — as well as an increase in the number of spay and neuter surgeries performed by the department. Eventually, she says, she hopes the department can move away from enforcement and toward more education for Dallas dog owners.

"DAS needs to be flexible, it needs to be able to move and change direction as the organization moves forward," Hobbs said. "Let's say at the end of the year that we've really made a significant impact on the number of loose dogs, as we can do that, then maybe we can reallocate some of our resources to more education within the community."

An ongoing tab of DAS efforts, in the form of a daily scorecard, is available on the department's Facebook page. The city's budget for the new fiscal year, passed in September, allocates an additional $3.2 million to the DAS budget, bringing the department's total funding to $13.5 million, covering, primarily, the cost of the 46 additional officers DAS has hired over the last three months and the increased number of spay and neuter surgeries DAS has provided.
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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