Editorial: 4 things Dallas can do to stop stray-dog chaos
Stella, who lived for months behind a dumpster on Lancaster Road in Oak Cliff, is one of the lucky dogs. She was rescued and adopted earlier this year. (This slideshow is make up of photos submitted by southern Dallas readers.)
Even in the dead of summer, Winnetka Heights bustles with people, young and old. Friendly folks are out walking, riding bikes, skateboarding, pushing strollers. It’s one of those welcoming Dallas neighborhoods that we’d all like to live in.
Except for the threat of dog attacks.
Just last Tuesday morning, a loose pit bull charged at Laura Stankosky and Charlie Howell as they walked their pets, one a shepherd mix and the other a small terrier, down a residential street. In seconds, the shepherd and pit were locked onto one another.
Charlie managed to blanket himself over the stray while Laura dragged the couple’s two pets to safety. Good Samaritans helped get the pit bull restrained until police arrived, and Dallas Animal Services took the dog away.
Charlie ended up in the ER with deep puncture wounds on his face and hands. A terrifying confrontation, but it could have been far worse. What if a child had been in the middle of that dog fight?
Mace, air horns, pepper spray and prayers. That’s what southern Dallas residents are often packing as they cope daily with the epidemic of loose dogs — some of them abandoned, others astray.
If you live north of Interstate 30, you probably have a hard time believing this is happening in Dallas. But it is. As a result, both the people and the castoff pets are suffering a poor quality of life.
Here’s why you should care, regardless of where you live: For Dallas to succeed, we need neighborhoods all over the city where people want to put down roots and pay taxes. So not only are your fellow residents in harm’s way, this is also a very real pocketbook issue.
Lots of responsible, loving dog owners live in southern Dallas — and some of the city’s best pet-friendly patios thrive here. Many animal lovers have fought back for years against the ever-growing population of strays.
As Dallas Morning News writers Gromer Jeffers and Scott Farwell explore the loose dog story, here are four things that would go a long way toward fixing Dallas’ stray dog problem:
1. Stop the dog dumping
Southeast Dallas offers relatively remote spots for sketchy characters to drop bags of dead dogs and for irresponsible owners to discard live pets that they are unable — or unwilling — to care for any longer. It’s a vicious cycle: The city cleans up and posts “no dumping” signs and cameras; another round of criminal behavior soon follows. City Hall must put sustained muscle into this area until the culprits go away for good.
2. Enforce the law
Although educating residents about responsible pet ownership makes sense as a long-term solution, that tactic does little to help folks living with the problem right now. Actual ticketing and follow-up are the best ways to stop problems like illegal tethering, spay-neuter violations and dogs running wild in the neighborhood.
3. Get the budget right
Dallas Animal Services, under director Jody Jones, has improved the city’s shelter. But we are less confident about how her operation allocates resources, especially the proportion of money and staffing provided in the field. Animal services, which accounts for less than 1 percent in total city spending, is seeking another funding increase this year. Several City Council members are promising tough questions around Jones’ management of the budget. The goal needs to be better performance by animal services in the southern half of the city.
4. Learn cooperation
Various factions — members of the Animal Shelter Commission, dog rescue groups, ad hoc neighborhood leaders, even Dallas Animal Services — waste way too much time pointing fingers and calling fouls. Arguments devolve into implications that their side can do no wrong and others can do no right. Until the dog politics ends, folks are too often just chasing their tails. This has to stop.
We’ve been doggedly chasing the stray dog problem since last year, and we won’t slow down. If you want to help, please contact your council member and Mayor Mike Rawlings so they know where you stand on abandoned and stray dogs in southern Dallas.
A southern Dallas plea
We’ve reviewed dozens of letters and emails that southern Dallas residents have sent to City Hall regarding the stray dog problem. Below are excerpts from one written in April 2014 by Laura Stankosky and Charlie Howell, who have since been victims of a loose dog attack:
Dear City Leaders:
The animal issues — feral dogs and loose dogs — that plague our Oak Cliff neighborhood would be considered extraordinary circumstances in most other Dallas neighborhoods, but we have come to know these conditions as ordinary. These extreme issues are part of our daily lives and they are affecting our safety and quality of life as well as the quality of life of the dogs and cats.
Please target DAS [Dallas Animal Services] funding for training to update animal control methods and for the use of more up-to-date behaviorally sound methods for animal capture. Please also put into place the means and methods for DAS to partner with neighborhoods to address the feral and loose dog populations.
Because we live here, it may be that we actually have some good recommendations on a better way to approach the dog problems.
We have lived in Winnetka Heights for 19 years. This has been a continuing problem for all of those years. Certainly, no time like the present to address this issue.
Laura Stankosky and Charlie Howell
Join the debate
To make your views known on the abandoned and stray dog problem, contact the mayor and your council representative. (Don’t know which district you are in? Go to bit.ly/DallasDistricts to find a map.)
Mayor Mike Rawlings … 214.670.3301
Scott Griggs, District 1 … 214.670.0776
Adam Medrano, District 2 … 214.670.4048
Casey Thomas, District 3 … 214.670.0777
Carolyn King Arnold, District 4 … 214.670.0781
Rickey Callahan, District 5 … 214.670.4052
Monica Alonzo, District 6… 214.670.4199
Tiffinni Young, District 7… 214.670.4689
Erik Wilson, District 8 … 214.670.4066
Mark Clayton, District 9 … 214.670.4069
Adam McGough, District 10 … 214.670.4068
Lee Kleinman, District 11 … 214.670.7817
Sandy Greyson, District 12 … 214.670.4067
Jennifer Gates, District 13 … 214.670.3816
Philip Kingston, District 14 … 214.670.5415