Dallas Animal Services wants to criminally charge owners of aggressive dogs

The director of Dallas Animal Services wants dog owners to pay the price if their dog bites someone.

Right now, it is difficult for the city of Dallas to punish owners who repeatedly have loose aggressive dogs because there are no misdemeanor criminal charges the city can issue.

City records show that of the dogs impounded for bites, nearly half of them were returned to their owners in the last fiscal year. Part of the reason is that there is nothing the city can do if a dog bites another dog. There is also no limit on how many dangerous dogs someone can own.

Ed Jamison is the new director of Dallas Animal Services and is hoping to change that. He is part of a task force that heard public comment on Tuesday about how to strengthen the city's laws regarding dangerous dogs. He believes there should be a way to criminally charge the owner of a dog that mauls someone.

A Dangerous Dogs Task Force in Dallas has taken on the urgency for the sheer number of dogs running loose in some neighborhoods.

The city has not yet charged the owner of the four dogs that critically wounded a woman in Fair Park last month.

“With dogs surrendered and euthanized, many compliance charges may be dropped because the dogs are no longer with us,” Jamison said. “It is very much part of the problem because when that happens it is done. No track record. No dogs deemed dangerous.”

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings agrees.

"I'm a big believer in making sure that we enforce the ordinances we have now, and I'd dial them up,” he said.

Dallas was also never able to criminally charge the owner of the dogs that mauled Antoinette Brown, an Army veteran, in 2016. Before that attack, the owner had previously surrendered 13 dogs to Dallas Animal Services.

In both the Fair Park and South Dallas cases, the owners surrendered their dogs to Dallas Animal Services.

Jamison says in Cleveland, where he is from, animal services did have the ability to press criminal charges. He says it worked well there.

There are three more meetings about the ordinance this month before it goes to the city council.