San Antonio – Three weeks after a deadly dog mauling by animals out of a notorious nuisance home, the City of San Antonio plans to beef up its enforcement efforts for aggressive dogs and start a new “Good Neighbor Program.”
In a March 14 memo to the mayor and city council, City Manager Erik Walsh said the new program would be modeled after an existing city team that already goes after the “worst of the worst” nuisance properties. The program would tackle residential properties with a “significant number of 911, 311, and non-emergency calls,” though it’s not clear how it would do so.
The proposed program and dog enforcement efforts stem directly from a West Side home whose dogs were responsible for the brutal Feb. 24 attack that killed an elderly man and sent several others to the hospital.
The two dogs involved in the attack and a third that had been loose at the time were all euthanized, and the owners were arrested for the felony charge of attack by a dangerous dog resulting in death and injury to an elderly person.
The dogs and their owners had long been known to neighbors, who told KSAT the home in the 2800 block of Depla Street had made life a “nightmare.”
Walsh wrote in his memo there were 114 calls to 911 and 42 calls to 311 about the Depla Street home between April 2020 and February 2023.
“Most of the calls were low-level priority calls but, in aggregate, they point to a larger community safety concern,” Walsh wrote.
KSAT previously reported on the high number of calls to the Depla Street home and the apparent lack of options for neighbors in similar situations. Though the city has a Dangerous Assessment Response Team (DART), a city spokeswoman said the calls to the Depla Street home didn’t rise to that level.
Walsh did not say what kind of power the new, proposed program would have to tackle nuisance homes, but says a plan will be presented during an April 5 council meeting focused on the FY 2024 budget.
Meanwhile, Walsh says Animal Care Services and the municipal courts have already started on several initiatives to enhance enforcement to “mitigate the hazards of bites, dangerous dogs, and aggressive animals.”
ACS will cite owners criminally instead of civilly for bites that happen while the dog was unrestrained and off the owner’s property. It is also implementing a new home quarantine policy for cases where a bite happens on the owner’s property.
Of the 103 animals in San Antonio designated as “dangerous dogs,” 60 are out of compliance, Walsh wrote in his memo. Most of them, 45, are for “significant compliance gaps,” like being free of restraints.
Municipal courts will have added docket time to address dangerous dog cases “in a timely manner” going forward, Walsh said.
ACS is making the reporting process for dangerous dogs easier, he wrote, and training San Antonio Police SAFFE officers on how to help people prepare the necessary affidavit to start a dangerous dog investigation.
Following a pilot program in Districts 2 and 3 on the East and South Sides, ACS is also canvassing areas with high-density of bites and calls about aggressive dogs. It will talk with owners to ensure dogs aren’t loose or a threat to the community. If a dog is loose, the owner will be cited and may also get cited for spayed/neutered violations or not being current on rabies vaccinations.
Animal Community Officers will also inspect 139 properties where an animal has been quarantined multiple times for bites to make sure the animals are restrained and their enclosures secured. ACS will also talk to neighbors about concerns with ownership.
The city has also worked with state legislators to enhance dangerous dog enforcement at the state level.
Bills proposed by State Reps. Elizabeth Campos and Diego Bernal and State Sen. José Menéndez would increase the criminal penalty related to an attack by a dangerous dog, allow animal services to deem a dog dangerous without a victim’s affidavit and allow victims to anonymously file dangerous dog affidavits.
Walsh’s memo only mentions Campos and Menendez’s bills, though Bernal’s bill is a duplicate of Menendez’s.
ACS is scheduled to provide an update to city council about its strategic plan during a March 22 city council meeting.