San Antonio – At a West Side intersection Thursday, San Antonio police say an argument may have led to the city’s latest dog attack.
A 53-year-old man was brought to the hospital with a “serious laceration” on his neck after police responded to an animal bite call at North Colorado Street and West Martin Street. SAPD say Marcus Davila, 40, had intentionally allowed his dog to attack the man.
He was arrested on felony charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and dangerous dog attack causing serious bodily injury.
It’s just one of the roughly 3,500 animal bite cases reported in San Antonio every year, though they aren’t all nearly as severe. And the potential consequences for the animal can range as well.
After a dog bite is reported, Animal Care Services investigators have to determine if there was an “exposure,” which could include even a scratch or mild bite. If there was, state law mandates a 10-day quarantine period to observe the animal for rabies.
Lt. Bethany Snowden, the special operations manager who oversees ACS’s investigation units, said they may allow a home quarantine if it’s a mild case involving the owner on their own property with a vaccinated dog.
But the dogs often end up at ACS for the quarantine period, which will cost the owner at least $200.
Dogs are considered property, though, and the owner is typically able to get their pet back at the end of the 10 days.
SERIOUS BODILY INJURY/DEATH
If a dog kills or seriously injures someone in an attack, though, ACS can try to get a court order to euthanize it.
The state defines serious bodily injury as “injury characterized by severe bite wounds or severe ripping and tearing of muscle” that would send a reasonable person to get medical care.
ACS first has to get a warrant to seize the animal. Then, a court hearing has to be held within 10 days.
Snowden said ACS tries to obtain the warrants during the quarantine period before the animal has to be released back to the owner.
If the judge determines the dog killed someone, state law requires they order the animal to be euthanized.
There’s more leeway if the victim is only injured, though. In those cases, state law says the judge “may” order the dog be put down.
The judge can not order the animal to be euthanized it the dog injured someone while protecting its owner or its owner’s property.
DANGEROUS/AGGRESSIVE DOG INVESTIGATION
ACS can hold onto a dog past the quarantine period if it is performing a “dangerous” or “aggressive” dog investigation.
The term “dangerous dog” is an official designation covered by state law that can be attached to a dog that bites or threatens a human while outside of its home. It’s a lifelong brand that carries extra requirements for its owner: a special enclosure, mandatory insurance coverage, a muzzle while being walked, and signage.
San Antonio has similar rules for “aggressive” dogs, which are generally pets that have attacked other animals. Unlike “dangerous” dogs, those restrictions last only one to three years, depending on the level of aggressive dog designation with which the dog has been labeled.
But both types of investigations have to be kicked off by sworn statements, or affidavits, from victims or other witnesses to an animal’s behavior.
Since the February death of Ramon Najera in a vicious dog mauling, though, ACS has seen an increase in people who will actually fill them out.
If ACS decides a dog deserves to be designated as “dangerous,” its owner has to get into compliance with the regulations before they can get the dog back.
“DANGEROUS” DOG BITES
Dogs that attack someone after they’re designated as “dangerous” may be euthanized, as can dogs whose owners don’t comply with the dangerous dog restrictions.
“If we have a dangerous dog that gets loose and bites somebody, we are going to pick that animal up, and we are going to pursue a noncompliance hearing,” Snowden said.
Snowden said the dog involved in Thursday’s attack on the West Side had not previously been designated as a “dangerous” dog.
Speaking with KSAT Friday morning, she said ACS would be meeting with SAPD to talk about next steps.