To a member, the city council members at Tuesday's specially called meeting voiced approval for all seven of the recommendations made in the BCG report. What became clear over the course of the nearly three-hour briefing, however, was that city staff might not be as enthusiastic as the council.
Contributing more cash — $1.2 million is the amount suggested by BCG — to Dallas Animal Services, seems like it would help on its face, as does making a big effort to spay and neuter dogs south of I-30 and rounding up the 8,700 or so loose dogs currently believed to be roaming the streets of southern Dallas.
One of the most important pieces of the proposed fix is making Dallas Animal Services into an entity in itself within the city. Peter Brodsky, chair of the Dallas Animal Commission that raised the money to pay for the BCG, said as much on Tuesday.
When DAS has to fight through three layers of bureaucracy and the city to make changes or get anything done, it is at risk of being paralyzed and ineffective, Brodsky said.
When asked by City Council member Scott Griggs if he would support making DAS its own city department, Dallas City Manager A.C. Gonzalez demurred. He wasn't sure, he said, that changing the place of DAS in the city hierarchy would help anything because DAS issues were already on the city's "front burner."
"This is the first time ever that Mr. Gonzalez has said he doesn't want to add to the hierarchy of Dallas City Hall," Griggs responded. "And this is the one time we need to add to it."
It's Gonzalez who'll be charged with finding the money to implement the recommendations. He's been given 30 days to respond to the plan by the mayor — who missed Tuesday's meeting — and he seems less than enthusiastic about the whole process.
"I'm not ready to embrace an additional department at this time," Gonzalez said, after questioning how the other recommendations, like the spay and neuter initiative, would be paid for.
Other members of the council poked around for information on the one thing obviously missing from the BCG list: improving enforcement. Bad dog owners, Sandy Greyson said, don't face enough consequences from the city and the process for getting a dog classified as dangerous is too difficult. Why couldn't the city, Greyson wondered, do something about bad dog owners?
"There seems to be a reluctance to go after these people," she said.
The problem with going after owners, Brodsky said, is that dogs are property. It's hard to legally prevent people from owning a specific class of property, he said.
What DAS can do is make an effort to increase the citation response rate of those cited for having dangerous dogs. As things stand, only 44 percent of citations issued receive any kind of response, Brodsky said.
Gonzalez said Tuesday that he'll have guidelines for how the council can move forward to implement the BCG recommendations within a month.