Dallas Animal Services won praise Wednesday from Dallas City Council members for removing more loose animals from neighborhoods and adopting more live animals from the city shelter.
“This is really the first time I’ve felt like we’re going in the right direction,” Councilman Adam McGough said.
It is a tremendous change from where Dallas was just four years ago.
In May 2016, Army Veteran Antoinette Brown was fatally mauled by a pack or loose dogs on Rutledge Street south of Fair Park.
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“When that incident happened, there was 100 percent a lot of dogs outside,” said neighbor Brenda Alvarez.
Neighbors Monday said a few loose dogs may still be seen, but far fewer than before after a big response from Dallas Animal Services.
“They was out here almost every day, this part, after that happened,” said neighbor Ollie Morgan.
Southern Dallas city council members said loose dogs were a constant nuisance.
“People did not feel safe who live in southern Dallas at all. Walking around with golf clubs was a common thing,” Councilman Casey Thomas said.
While campaigning door to door in 2017, Councilman Adam Bazaldua said he worried about loose dogs.
“I wanted to carry a club with me when I was knocking on doors during election season,” he said. “Something wasn’t being done. And I feel like something is really being done now.”
Director Ed Jamison was hired from Cleveland. He was given more money to hire more people.
“The City Council stepped up and increased the funding. It all starts with appropriate funding,” said Animal Advisory Commission Chairman Peter Brodsky.
A consultant recommended sweeping changes, including Animal Services becoming its own department, reporting directly to the City Manager. Brodsky said Jamison implemented all the consultant recommendations and made Dallas Animal Services an attractive place to work.
“People have moved here to come work for Dallas Animal Services because they see that it is a city that funds it properly,” Brodsky said.
Even as more loose animals were captured, more were adopted from the City Shelter. Brodsky said the live release rate is now more than 90 percent, high enough to consider it a “no-kill” shelter.
But there are still challenges. A 76-year-old woman was severely injured in a November dog attack. A 44-year-old neighbor was arrested for allowing her three pit bulls to get loose.
Councilman Tennell Atkins said his far southern Dallas District 8 is still plagued by aggressive loose dogs.
“I have more loose dogs, more bites because people come to District 8 and just dump their dogs,” Atkins said.
A map in the city council briefing Wednesday showed dog bites all around the city in a 12 month period from October 2018 to September 2019. Most of the bites were dogs that did have owners.
“I think the data would show today there’s work to be done in every District. It’s not just Southern Dallas. There are issues all over the City of Dallas with loose dog bites,” Jamison said. “The number one thing is, people. We need them to keep their animal restrained.”
Neighbor Brenda Alvarez said residents expect a fast response from Dallas Animal Services when a loose dog is spotted.
“Because you don't know if the dog is going to attack you and killing you, and you don't know if the dog had vaccinations,” she said.
Even with more money and staff, Jamison said it is still difficult to answer calls about loose dogs in the sprawling City of Dallas as quickly as people would like.
“I have a radio in my truck so I listen all the time and I hear officers in those rush hour times saying, ‘Yea, my ETA is 55 minutes. I’m on my way, I’m on my way, but it’s just going to take that long,’” he said.
The officials said Dallas trails only Los Angeles in the number of aggressive dog complaints. He said Los Angeles has 13 satellite offices for Animal Services. Dallas has just the West Dallas location where officers are based at Westmoreland Road and I-30.
Dallas police substations will soon be used by Animal Services for some purposes.
“We’re going to start using some substations for interviewing witnesses involved in dog attacks. We just got to that yesterday. But we’d love to have animal substations throughout the city,” he said.
City Council Members Wednesday said the idea could be included in future budget discussions to help Dallas Animal Services progress continue.