Pit bulls left behind after tenants evicted

Landlord: 'Didn't think there was a procedure to evict dogs'

SAN ANTONIOChecking on her late mother's home after having evicted the tenants, Reva Brown discovered at least a dozen pit bulls had been left behind in a now-flooded backyard, including three dogs inside the house, she said.

Brown said she's been trying unsuccessfully for the past week to have the all dogs removed by calling Animal Care Services and the San Antonio Police Department, as well as the former tenant and her boyfriend, the owner of the pit bulls. 

"Maybe he was coming back to get them. My thing is, why are you [not] putting them inside?" she said. 

Brown said the dogs, which neighbors heard fighting, left the now-vacant house a smelly mess.

She said last month the man was arrested at the house, in the 400 block of Dorie Street, for outstanding warrants after a brief foot chase with police.

The couple's landlord said she gave them until Oct. 31 to move out, which they did. But Brown said she didn't know about the dogs until this week.

She said otherwise, the tenants paid their rent on time and kept the front lawn in good shape, so she had no reason to check further.  

ACS officers put up a notice of violation Thursday for the dogs' owner in response to Brown's complaint.

Lisa Norwood, ACS spokeswoman, said officers saw only three pit bulls at the time.

But when officers returned Friday morning, Brown had opened the front door allowing them access to the backyard.

She said by then, the man had picked up about eight more animals kept in a large outdoor enclosure.

But KSAT 12 News was there when officers found at least half a dozen pit bulls, including three young pups kept in an outdoor kennel. The others were chained up, and one was roaming the yard.

Norwood said the officers determined the dogs appeared healthy, but they are investigating whether they were being given food, water and shelter as mandated by law.

Audra Houghton, ACS field operations supervisor, said what may seem like an obvious case of dogs needing to be seized, is really not that simple.

"No, it really isn't," Houghton said, unless the dogs are in dire straits or immediate danger. "We have to determine whether or not the animals are actually abandoned or whether this is a civil dispute between a landlord and a tenant."

Houghton also said officers also must determine probable cause in order for a judge to sign the warrant.

She said the owner also could sign over the dogs to ACS, but first ACS must track him down.

Houghton said if the owner keeps them, "Are they going to go into better or worse conditions?"

She also said the landlord could get a court-ordered eviction beyond the terms of the lease. That would help ACS to step in and take the dogs.

"It's a process for everything, but I didn't think there was a procedure to evict dogs," Brown said.

For now the dogs will stay where they are, but ACS officers will be checking on their welfare.

A spokeswoman for Alamo City Pit Bull Rescue and Rehabilitation said the group also must follow the same legal guidelines as ACS.

But she said the organization would be willing to rescue some of the dogs if ACS does take them from the owner.