Dallas Police Pursue Dog DNA in Fatal Attack

Animal DNA science less advanced than human DNA matching

Dallas police are still pursuing animal DNA science for a possible criminal case in the fatal May 2 mauling of a U.S. Army veteran.

Relatives said Antoinette Brown, 52, was bitten more than 100 times in a vacant lot near Dallas Fair Park and advocates have sought answers ever since about the police investigation.

"Nothing is more terrifying than to think somebody's life was given over a loose dog," said Maeleska Fletes, with the Dallas Companion Animal Project.

Fletes is also a member of the Dallas Animal Shelter Advisory Commission, which has been reviewing Dallas Animal Services problems.

A consultant report prepared for they city since the attack on Brown estimated more than 8,000 loose dogs are on Dallas streets each morning. The report recommended sweeping changes and more funding for Dallas Animal Services. But the investigation of Brown's death remains unfinished.

"I always ask, why has there been no arrest made in that case?" Fletes said.

Soon after the attack, police said dogs suspected of causing the wounds were surrendered from a home near the attack location and the dog owners received code citations for loose dogs. Police said DNA samples were taken from the animals as potential evidence that those dogs caused the woman's wounds.

Dallas Police Chief David Brown on Thursday confirmed the investigation is still ongoing. He said DNA testing has been difficult.

"We tried to exhaust every expert DNA lab to get that. There was some analysis here at Dallas County, and then we sent out to other labs outside the state. We're making sure that there is no saliva or anything else on Miss Brown's clothes that we can match. It has been a very meticulous investigation," the police chief said.

An animal DNA expert at the University of Texas at Arlington said the case may be impossible.

Assistant Biology Professor Dr. Todd Castoe said DNA matching science is far more time consuming in real life than it is on TV crime shows and far more advanced for humans than it is for animals.

"There are a number of cases, where they have done exactly what they claim they are aiming to do here, and it has worked," said Castoe. "The level of patience that's required here is different because what you are asking is not run of the mill every day forensics on systems that are well worked out. This is really specialized work and it’s going to take a lot more careful consideration."

Chief Brown, who is not related to the victim, said he could not recall another fatal dog attack in his 33 years with the Dallas Police Department.

"Our investigators are really aware of the seriousness, making sure that we follow the evidence. And if we can prove a case we will. If we can't, we will let you know that we can't," Brown said.

A city of Dallas town hall meeting is scheduled for Monday, Sept. 12, on the consultant recommendations for Dallas Animal Services and the city's loose dog problem. It will be held at 6:30 p.m. at Park South YMCA, 2500 Romine, Dallas,TX, 75215.

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