By Robyn Langley
Dallas Animal Services presented strategies borrowed from policing tactics at the City Council’s Quality of Life Committee April 25. DAS’ new strategy to attempt to rein in stray, mishandled and loose dogs is to increase citations by 500 percent.
Animal control officers have already written more citations than any year in recent history, most of which were given to those without proper pet registration or owners allowing dogs to run loose.
Improvements made in these past six months at DAS include hiring new workers as well as adding technology to speed up record keeping and direct dispatch communication between 3-1-1 operators and officers. Animal Services also uses NextDoor, a neighborhood-watch app, as well as outreach programs to grab local attention and has linked its software with 3-1-1.
Dallas Animal Services launched a campaign six months ago targeting stray dogs by focusing intense attention on problem neighborhoods. This campaign was tested in five small neighborhoods. Through these efforts DAS gave out 815 violations, 159 tickets, took 170 dogs to shelter, registered 59 new animals, neutered 135 dogs, contacted 1,245 citizens and gave out 2,947 packages of educational materials.
Control officers attempted to educate owners about responsible pet care and wrote extra citations in areas where patrol was boosted. Now, with some promising results, Dallas Animal Services will broaden the targeted regions and mobilize resources based on greatest needs.
Though there has been improvement, the issues remain and Dallas City Council continues to hear stray dog complaints. City Council is pleased with DAS progress but concerned about making the improvements permanent, as Dallas has struggled with dangerous and stray dogs for years. A new program aimed at Southern Dallas, CARE or Community Animal Resource Effort, will replace the DAS targeted neighborhood program.
Director Jody Jones said that DAS is taking the lessons learned in the last six months and rolling out a better program. She reminded the public that DAS needs them to call with animal issues, and that it deploys resources based on calls to 3-1-1. Jones maintains that focusing on picking up stray dogs won’t work. She also feels we need new strategies to engage people in solutions, that as a result of only rounding up animals the problems continue to perpetuate.
The city is partnering with activists and police to create a group working against animal cruelty. Though council members praised officials for their progress they also questioned if DAS really has its act together. The city has also made its efforts to educate the public about the issues plaguing dogs by launching the DallasPETS campaign at the end of last year. Efforts have mostly been concentrated on the southern half of Dallas, where stray dogs are such a problem that it can prevent kids walking to and from schools.
Though there has been sustainable success in picking up stray dogs, DAS’ plans fixated on human behaviors more than the animals. Volunteers will be sent to target areas to explain laws and share resources for about a week before Animal Services officers will come remove strays and issue citations to residents, including tickets to those allowing dogs to run loose.
An estimated one-third of dogs on streets are truly strays and the rest belong to owners who are not compliant, stated DAS. By combining education, dog catching and enforcement the city of Dallas expects to curb some of the chaos. There is hope that the enthusiasm heard from Animal Services about these efforts will be matched by commitment to ticketing irresponsible owners and catching dogs.