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It's Time To Tackle Dallas' Stray Dog Problem, Council Members Say

Courtney Collins
Both of these dogs have been living at a construction site off Highway 175 in Dallas.

When it comes to big issues, Dallas City Council members tend to be divided. Tuesday was different.

Council members around the horseshoe expressed their strong support for tackling the city’s loose dog problem.

Boston Consulting Group was commissioned to study stray dogs after a homeless Army veteran in South Dallas died from a dog attack back in May.

The group’s report spelled out seven recommendations for the city, which includes euthanizing only the sickest animals and providing more low-cost spay-and-neuter surgeries in South Dallas, where most of the stray dogs roam.

However, City Manager A.C. Gonzalez took issue with one of the recommendations -- to make Dallas Animal Services its own department, so it can be more proactive.

“I don’t know how you get more in the frontburner of it in terms of attention than what we’ve been having,” Gonzalez said Tuesday. “Through the fact that it’s in code, we’ve actually had more resources there beyond what they have currently.”

Right now, Dallas Animal Services is under the city’s code department.

The current setup makes it difficult to improve animal welfare, says Peter Brodsky, a KERA board member who also chairs the Dallas Animal Advisory Commission.

“It’s problematic in terms of execution, because the person who’s running DAS is not high enough in the bureaucracy to really have a front seat at the table,” Brodsky says.

Boston Consulting’s recommendations come with a price tag. The group’s suggesting $2.7 million in incremental funding for Animal Services. The drafted budget for next fiscal year only proposed an extra $1.5 million.

But council member Casey Thomas, who represents South Dallas, says the city can’t wait to address the stray dog problem.

“Every time I drive down the street, and I see people walking down the street with golf clubs, or they have to carry a stick, or mace, or whatever they feel the need to protect themselves from animals, it makes me that much more grateful for this report,” Thomas said. “We need to move with all deliberate speed.”

The City Council next month will approve next year’s budget.

But with Fair Park and the police and fire departments also wanting more money, finding extra cash could be tough.   

Highlights from Boston Consulting Group's study

  • The number of reported bites from dogs that are loose but have owners increased 23 percent annually since 2013.
  • Animal service officers spend a majority of time being reactive. They spend about 80 percent of their day responding to 311 calls – collecting animals and issuing citations.
  • While Dallas Animal Services is issuing more citations for stray dogs, the report finds defendants didn’t respond to 44 percent of the citations.
  • There are big disparities between North and South Dallas. The group counted about 8,700 loose dogs in South Dallas. Researchers couldn’t accurately predict the number of strays in northern Dallas because they found so few stray dogs.
  • Spay and neuter rates also varied. About 80 percent of dogs in northern Dallas are fixed, while 85 percent of dogs in southern Dallas are intact.  

Former KERA staffer Krystina Martinez was an assistant producer. She produced local content for Morning Edition and She also produced The Friday Conversation, a weekly series of conversations with North Texas newsmakers. Krystina was also the backup newscaster for the Texas Standard.