Changes to boost enforcement and speed release of animals from the city shelter were endorsed by a Dallas City Council Committee Monday.
The Quality of Life Committee heard the proposals from new Animal Services Director Ed Jamison, who arrived in Dallas eight months ago from Cleveland.
“Some of the situation, it’s dire in Dallas,” Jamison said.
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Jamison said he felt powerless after a woman was attacked by four loose dogs in April near Dallas Fair Park.
“We had to do something to stop that cycle and put it back on the owner,” Jamison said.
Veronica Yarborough is recovering from wounds to her head, arms and legs after surgery and a long stay in the hospital.
“They got me down on the street and stuff, and I tried to get up and they knocked me back down,” she said. “I don’t know why that happened. I was just walking down the street.”
The owner had been cited before for loose dogs and received 16 additional citations after the attack. Police charged him with Attack by Dog Resulting in Serious Bodily Injury, a 3rd degree Felony. But Jamison said that may be hard to prove in court because it requires prior proof these particular dogs were aggressive.
“We have to change the thinking here,” Jamison said. “You have to contain your animal in Dallas at all times. It has to be contained.”
Revisions to city code endorsed Monday include forbidding future pet ownership after 3 citations for aggressive animals.
The live release rate from the Dallas Animal Shelter is up to 82%, the highest ever. At the same time intake has increased so much that the shelter has doubled up animals in some confinement areas.
To make more space, another revision endorsed Monday was reducing the required hold time from 10 days to 5.
“The whole point here is to get dogs back into homes as fast as possible and save lives,” said Animal Shelter Advisory Commission Chairman Peter Brodsky.
Officials said Austin, San Antonio and Fort Worth city shelters require animal be held only 3 days.
Jamison said the change would help get unwanted pets into the hands of rescue organizations and encourage responsible owners to recover wanted animals faster.
“We’re not charging that boarding impound fee if you’re here within the first day, so we’re incentivizing you to get here. We want you to get your animal back,” Jamison said.
Dallas City Councilman Omar Narvaez opposed the reduced release time out of concern it could unfairly affect owners.
“We’re talking about a sensitive issue when it comes to pets,” Narvaez said.
Six other members of the committee endorsed the release change and a vote was unanimous for the new enforcement measures Jamison proposed.
“I think you’ve lived up to your promises. So, I’m really appreciative of that,” Councilman Mark Clayton said.
Animal Services also plans to open a satellite office in an old fire station near Fair Park, blocks from where Yarborough was attacked. The neighborhood has the city’s highest number of calls for animal service.
Officials hope to improve relationships with animal owners in the area, improve enforcement and reduce travel time by basing officers and kennel space at the former fire station.
“It’s just a huge win to be able to have an operation there,” Brodsky said.
The satellite office is due to open in August. A full City Council vote on the measures endorsed Monday is scheduled for June 27th. The enforcement and release changes would take effect immediately.