The white pit bull with no collar charged toward Charlie Howell as his wife restrained their own dogs behind him. Howell felt he had no choice but to tackle the animal. "I made the split-second decision that I was not going to let it get past me," Howell says. As he pinned the dog down, it bit him in the face. A witness later told police that he had called animal control the previous day, on August 17, "but animal control did not remove the dog on that date," the police report says.
Howell drove himself to the emergency room to treat puncture wounds, and Dallas Animal Services took the dog away on August 18, where the dog will stay in quarantine for 10 days. Howell says animal control told him he has until August 28 to file a dangerous dog affidavit, which he plans to do. Otherwise, the animal will be returned to its owner. "The observation period is 10 days. At that time the animal is able to be returned to owner," Dallas Animal Services Director Jody Jones says in an email statement. "There is a process in which the victim can have a hearing held if they are in fear for their safety beyond this initial process."
Loose and stray dogs have roamed southern Dallas' neighborhoods for years. In April 2014, Howell and wife Laura Stankosky even wrote to the city to complain about the animals, as the Morning News first reported in its series on stray dogs published last weekend. "The animal issues that plague our Oak Cliff neighborhood would be considered extraordinary circumstances in most other Dallas neighborhoods, but we have come to know these conditions as ordinary," the couple wrote to local officials. "These extreme issues are part of our daily lives, and they are affecting our safety and quality of life as well as the quality of life of the dogs and cats."
The same day Howell was bitten last week, a mail carrier reported being attacked by another set of dogs in Oak Cliff. "It has been determined that they were 'loose owned' dogs and the owner brought the two dogs to the shelter on the day of the attack," City Council member Scott Griggs announced in a Facebook post on August 20.
The attacks came just a week after feral dogs stalked and injured pets in another neighborhood in south Oak Cliff. Loose dogs had always been a problem in Brettonwoods, a lush neighborhood with an unusual country feel tucked deep in southwest Dallas. But to longtime resident Wayne Kickwood, the dogs had seemed to have disappeared until late one night in early August, when he heard the sound of a dog barking and his cat yelping at around 12:30 in the morning. Kirkwood ran out and saw his cat, Curly, in the dog's mouth. Curly was once a stray himself, part of a litter that Kirkwood had adopted 11 years ago. "I figured, 'Well my cat's gone, but I want something to bury, so you're going to drop my cat,'" Kirkwood says. He followed the dogs down the street. Finally, he saw three empty mouths, and then he found Curly's disemboweled body on the ground. The next day, the dogs returned to his driveway as he buried his cat, he says, and he took a photograph.
Kirkwood's neighbor Barry Gream initially didn't get up when he first heard the dogs barking that night. Then, Gream says, "I thought I heard a couple guys talking, and I jumped up thinking OK, something's definitely wrong." By the time Gream ran out to his backyard, one of the two goats he keeps as pets was screaming. No people were to be seen, and Gream still doesn't know where the human voices came from or if he had confused them with a sound from one of the animals.
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Dogs had managed to break into his goat pen, and they ran out of the small shed after Gream hit it with a rake. Gream didn't get a good look at the dogs in the dark, he says, but he believes the same pack killed Kirkwood's animal. His female goat Izzy now has tubes and staples in her neck.
Residents in southern Dallas say animal control is often unresponsive to calls about loose dogs. In an interview that the News published on Sunday, Jones defended the response times. She said that if animal control officers can't get to a loose dog within 20 minutes, then they won't bother taking the call. “There’s really no sense in going out there 12 hours later,” she said. “By that time, the animal’s moved on and hopefully back with his owner," she told the paper. The agency also said it plans to hire more workers.
You can watch Gream feeding his injured goat below: