Mar 15, 2023 - Politics

San Antonio considers changes after fatal dog attack

The renovated San Antonio City Hall pictured against a blue sky.

San Antonio City Hall. Photo: Megan Stringer/Axios

After a deadly dog attack last month left an elderly man dead and sent three others to the hospital, city officials are looking to crack down on properties where neighbors frequently report animal concerns.

Driving the news: City manager Erik Walsh detailed a proposed program and other changes in a Tuesday memo to the City Council. Axios obtained a copy of the memo.

Why it matters: In the nearly three years before the February attack, neighbors called 911 on the owner's address 114 times, according to the memo. They also called 311, the city's nonemergency customer service line, 42 times.

  • The owners of the dogs involved in the attack have been arrested, and officials euthanized three dogs.

Details: The proposed Good Neighbor Program would target homes that see a significant number of 911, 311 and nonemergency calls to the police. It's subject to council approval.

  • The goal is to combine resources from multiple city departments to resolve issues at the properties, the memo says.
  • "These calls in isolation are considered low priority, yet combined often point to a larger community safety concern," Walsh wrote in the memo.
  • The program is modeled after the city's Dangerous Assessment Response Team, or DART, which targets and abates nuisance properties.

Meanwhile, the city's Animal Care Services already made other changes following the deadly attack, per the memo.

  • Officials will cite pet owners criminally, instead of civilly, if a dog is unrestrained and off its owner's property during bite call response.
  • Animal Care Services is narrowing in on dogs involved in multiple bites and on areas with a high density of dog bites. Over the next week and a half, its officers plan inspections of at least 139 of these properties and to visit with neighbors to learn about concerns.
  • City staff have also worked with local state lawmakers on measures to protect people who report a dangerous dog and to increase the penalty for not complying with dangerous dog rules.

Context: Dogs that officials have deemed dangerous are inspected annually to ensure owners meet state requirements.

  • Animal Care Services can label a dog "dangerous" by considering sworn witness statements and additional investigations.

By the numbers: As of March 6, there were 103 dangerous dogs in San Antonio, per the memo.

  • Of those, the owners of 43 of the dogs are complying with state law.
  • The owners of the other 60 dogs are out of compliance, including 45 that are significantly so, and 15 that are missing administrative requirements, such as insurance.

What they're saying: "Most pet owners take great care of their animals," Walsh wrote in the memo. "However, irresponsible pet owners need to be held accountable."

What's next: Officials will brief council members on the new plan at their April 5 meeting, per the memo.


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