Animal Welfare

Dallas Police Make First Ever Felony Dog Attack Arrest

In a big first step for the city of Dallas' nascent battle against the thousands of loose dogs believed to be roaming the city, the Dallas Police Department made its first ever felony arrest of a dog owner for an attack by their dog. Alicia Hernandez, 64, is in Dallas County jail after her dog allegedly attacked a 38-year-old woman on August 6.

Hernandez's 65-pound tan and black pit bull ran out through an unlocked gate in the front yard of Hernandez's home in the 4400 block of Rosewood Avenue near the Dallas North Tollway, according to police. The dog attacked the woman, leaving puncture wounds on her leg, a large chunk of flesh removed from her right calf and cuts on her hands, wrist and chest. The woman was taken to Parkland Hospital by paramedics, where she was treated and released.

The dog ran back through the gate into Hernandez's yard after the attack, where it was seized by Dallas Animal Services and remains in a shelter.

In July, the dog attacked another woman, biting her on the right side of her rib cage. The dog was quarantined and Hernandez was cited, but she paid the fine to retrieve the dog after the mandated 10 days was up. Additionally, Hernandez was cited for seven animal-related code violations in 2010 including allowing her dogs to run loose in her neighborhood.

"The investigation revealed that the owner was criminally negligent and was aware of the substantial and unjustifiable risk to the public by her dogs," Dallas County Deputy Chief Rob Sherwin said at a press conference. "I think we have proof that, after the July attack [Hernandez] should have known that this dog was dangerous."

Sherwin said that the investigation of Hernandez differed from the investigation into the death of Antoinette Brown, who was mauled and killed by dogs in South Dallas this spring, because there was a clear pattern of behavior that shows Hernandez's negligence led to the attack. Sherwin, who's been assigned to assist Dallas Animal Services, said that he hopes Hernandez's arrest builds Dallas residents' confidence that the loose dog problem that's hit the city is being addressed.

"I think that this is a public safety issue that demands that we take a hard look along with Dallas Animal Services and see what we can do to protect the public. I think that the public demands that we take enforcement action against people who are not responsible pet owners. It's not just a civil action that you can be responsible for, it's a criminal one."

Under Texas' "Lillian's Law," named for a victim of a dog attack, owners found to be criminally negligent in preventing their dogs from committing an unprovoked attack can be charged with a third-degree felony, which can bring a sentence of 2 to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
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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

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