SAN ANTONIO – A 40-year-old man was attacked by two dogs while walking on the city’s West Side Wednesday night, but police say a neighbor with a gun intervened.
The victim was walking down the 100 block of South San Gabriel Avenue, near West Commerce Street, at about 8:30 p.m., say neighbors and San Antonio Police, when he was attacked by two dogs from a nearby home. Neighbors and Animal Care Services officials say it’s not the first time they’ve gotten loose.
ACS officials believe the dogs escaped through a hole in their owner’s fence a few houses down from where the attack happened. Sandra Compian, who lives on the block, saw they were loose and warned her husband. When she saw the man walking down the street, she warned him, too.
“The man started running -- running fast. But when he ran, the dog attacked him,” she told KSAT in Spanish.
Another neighbor, Rene Gutierrez, said he was inside his home and heard screaming. When he came out, he saw the man on the ground with the dog on top of him.
“My neighbor was right there on top of the dog, trying to get him off. Then, there was another dog who came behind him. I told my neighbor, ‘Watch out, dude. There’s another dog.’ And then I just heard gunshots,” he said.
One of the dogs was killed at the scene. The other was injured and brought to an overnight animal emergency room, though ACS officials say it died overnight.
Cellphone video from the scene showed the man with bite wounds on his right leg. A San Antonio Fire Department spokesman said he was taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.
“I think he’s a hero because it was between a person’s life or the animals’,” Compian said of her neighbor with the gun. “He did the right thing.”
ACS Director Shannon Sims said the dogs were unsterilized American Staffordshire Terriers, often referred to as “pit bulls,” though Sims noted that is not an official breed category.
Sims said the dogs’ owner was given multiple citations.
KSAT knocked on the man’s door Thursday, but no one answered.
Sims said there were fewer bites than usual in the city overall during the 2023 fiscal year, which ended in September. However, he says, there was a higher number of severe bites.
“I can’t think of a single severe attack that we’ve had this year that did not involve an owned animal,” he said.
After Najera’s death in February, Sims said he “would have figured” more owners would take precautions to keep their dogs on their property.
“I’m at a little bit of a loss on how to get to the community, in general, that you could go to prison for this, and you could cause some in their life,” he said.
Compian and Gutierrez both said the dogs from the attack have been loose before, and Sims said he found a pair of calls from about two weeks ago that were likely about the same animals.
Though the reports were about dogs being free of restraint and showing threatening behavior, Sims said ACS did not have officers on those calls. Because of staffing shortages, the department responds to less than half of the 50,000 “critical” calls it gets for issues like aggressive dogs, neglect, or animal cruelty.
The gap in its call response was one of the reasons ACS received the largest budget of any city department this year. The department added 16 new officers Wednesday night, many of whom will be filling new positions at ACS that are meant to help improve the response rate.
Even if ACS officers had responded to the calls, Sims said it’s “hard to say” if it would have prevented Wednesday’s attack. They likely would have cited the owner or brought the dogs back to ACS if they couldn’t determine the owner.
“What would have really been a preventative measure is if there would have been some, you know, an affidavit, sworn statement, something like that, to show that folks had been aggressively charged or attacked or anything like that in the previous history. That would have allowed us to seize the animals regardless of ownership,” Sims said.
For what you should do before and during a dog attack, click here.