Houston Animal Control says ordinance prevents seizure of aggressive dogs

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by Drew Karedes / KHOU 11 News

khou.com

Posted on October 16, 2013 at 11:21 AM

HOUSTON -- When animals get aggressive, it’s the folks at animal control that are called to come to the rescue. Houston Animal Control believes, in many cases, their hands are tied.

Houston Animal Control receives upwards of 400 calls every day. There are seven officers assigned to cover all of those requests for service within city limits.

According to animal control, officers are not able to seize aggressive dogs or cite their owners in many cases because the current law doesn’t allow it.

“Right now, if they get a complaint about a stray animal or an aggressive animal that hasn’t yet attacked anyone, they have to witness that animal running at large to be able to impound the animal,” said Chris Newport with BARC animal shelter.

Chris Newport has been voicing his concerns to the community at a series of meetings.

The goal is to revise the current city ordinance. Right now, it only allows officers to seize dogs that either attack a person or are caught by an officer running loose.

“We’re outstripped, outgunned, every single day of the week. We need ways to make people more responsible and more proactive,” explained Newport.

Newport said the hope is that officers will eventually be able to cite dogs known to terrorize neighborhoods and, in some cases, seize dogs that attack other pets.

“We’ll be able to make people keep aggressive animals in their yard, and it they don’t, they’re going to pay higher penalties,” said Newport.

The proposed changes are a good sign for a southeast Houston woman still grieving the loss of her cat.

Juanita Jennings’ cat named Cayman was mauled outside her door in August by a pack of dogs.

“It was gruesome,” said Juanita Jennings. “It won’t be an animal next time. It might be a child, a baby, or an elderly person walking the streets that can’t protect themselves.

Animal control hasn’t found the dogs responsible for the vicious attack.

If the dogs are found at a person’s home, there’s likely not much that officers could do anyway under current law.

“I hope they’re able to do more,” said Jennings. “That they can at least hold the owners responsible.”

Animal control is still taking feedback from the community.

If all goes well, spokesman Chris Newport said he hopes to take proposed changes to the city council public safety committee within a month.

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