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Following Loose Dog Attacks, Dallas City Council Strengthens Its Dog Ordinance

LM Otero
In 2016, a stray dog wandered a southern Dallas, Texas, neighborhood where Antoinette Brown, a homeless Army veteran, was killed by a pack of dogs.

The Dallas City Council has decided to bolster an ordinance to counter the problem of attacks by loose dogs.

The council on Wednesday voted 13-to-1 to establish a criminal penalty for certain dog bites and provide a definition for an aggressive dog.

Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway says he knows the problem first-hand. He says he saw more than 100 loose dogs on a midnight ride with Dallas Animal Services in his neighborhood.

“I want to reiterate what's happening in southern Dallas,” he said. “It's a major problem in the area in which I represent."

The vote follows recent dog attacks in southern Dallas, some of them resulting in serious injuries — and death. Earlier this month, a man was attacked in far south Dallas by three dogs. In 2016, Antoinette Brown, a homeless Army veteran, was killed in southern Dallas after being mauled by a pack of dogs.

Caraway suggested adding more animal services workers to the overnight shift.  

"If we're going to tackle the problem, let's hit it, and let's hit it hard,” he said. “Let's test it out. If it works, then that means we're going to be able to pick up more. And we're going to be able to see the results of it. They roam at night.”

Council member Tennell Atkins says he’s concerned Dallas’ animal services department doesn’t have enough staffers to address loose dogs in his district and across the city.

“We do not have enough personnel,” he said. ”We do not have enough people in the field ... to make sure our citizens are safe. “

The Dallas Morning News reports the council plans to take up the topic again in the fall.

Dog disparities in North, South Dallas

Boston Consulting Group was commissioned to study stray dogs in Dallas 2016. Among the report’s highlights:

  • 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. 
  • 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.

Official: More awareness needed about spaying, neutering

Dallas Animal Services director Ed Jamison talked with KERA in April.

"A lot of people in the South don't understand the importance of having their animals spayed or neutered,” he said.

“There's the old-school stereotypes of having one litter makes them healthier and there are a lot of things that just are not true,” he added. “It just has not been brought across that their animals will actually be healthier and have less nuisance behaviors once their animal is altered. The risk of cancer drops dramatically in females once they're spayed.”

KERA's Krystina Martinez contributed to this report.