Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Dallas, TX Needs to Get their Act Together Regarding Animal Welfare...

When it comes to animal welfare, Dallas feels more Third World than world-class

The story of Khaleesi, found by Dallas firefighters in January with a slit throat, illustrates why we can't "nip and tuck" our way to solving animal-related issues.  (KXAS-TV, NBC5)
The story of Khaleesi, found by Dallas firefighters in January with a slit throat, illustrates why we can’t “nip and tuck” our way to solving animal-related issues. (KXAS-TV, NBC5)
Two recent dog stories illustrate why I’m more determined than ever to keep a spotlight aimed on Dallas’ animal-related problems, longstanding challenges that seem so darn intractable that only the most stubborn of us keep up the fight.

And they remind me that while no city leader (or leaders) has emerged to make this a top priority, many capable people — individuals, animal rescue groups, Dallas Animal Services staff and business owners — are trying to stop the bleeding (sometimes literally).
These two stories remind me of why we need a full-scale overhaul in the way we look at animal issues in Dallas — why nips and tucks aren’t enough.

But things won’t really improve until the Dallas City Council takes hold of this as a Priority One issue and refuses to let go.That leadership has to come from southern Dallas council members and/or Mayor Mike Rawlings, because the northern districts simply don’t experience the problem that the south does.
The kind of leader I’m talking about — or even better, a team of council members — may well not exist on the City Council at this time. It may take citizens coming together and running a candidate whose platform focuses on the kind of change that, say, Austin rallied around.
We need wholesale reform in southern Dallas and reform within how Dallas Animal Services is structured and how it works. This is bigger than what individuals and DAS can accomplish on their own; again, I believe both parties — sometimes in partnership — are doing what they can under the current system. (I am sick to death of the wasted energies devoted to the finger-pointing and fighting. If the people involved in the fight to help the dogs could be as kind to one another as they are to the creatures they rescue, leaders would likely listen more carefully.)
Meanwhile, it’s “out of sight, out of mind” among city leaders, who without doubt have other pressing issues that vie for their attention. I fear that in their mind, the dog chaos was last year’s problem; they’ve checked it off the list and are moving on. (We had some momentum here, but that was several months ago.) You don’t have to look much further than the fact that the council’s Quality of Life committee hasn’t heard an update on the situation in months to see that this has dropped off the radar. All that tough talk back in the fall seems to have been just that — talk.
Dallas simply cannot move on — we must get total council buy-in, starting with all of the southern Dallas members. Here are the two stories that illustrate why we’re more of a Third World outpost than a world-class city when it comes to animal-related issues:
Lori, Maggie and a weekend of dog chaos
Fido Oak Cliff Lost & Found is just one of the popular posting sites for stray, loose and neglected dogs in Oak Cliff, particularly the neighborhoods west of Interstate 35, from Kessler to Kiest-Polk. In the time span of Friday afternoon through yesterday, I counted more than 30 reports, most of them with photos, of roaming dogs – some pregnant and neglected, some clearly owned, some menacing and others friendly.
Chris Watts, who is co-owner of Petropolitan and the District 1 Animal Commission representative, is accustomed to the loose dogs that frequent his operation’s Oak Cliff location. I talked to him yesterday about a number of issues, including his weekend of herding dogs “astray” in Oak Cliff. Here are just two of them:
Maggie, a repeat offender of fence-jumping. (Chris Watts)
Maggie, a repeat offender when it comes to fence-jumping. (Chris Watts)
One small roamer (right) turned out to be chipped. A call was made and the grateful owner picked up little Maggie, who apparently jumps over her human’s short fence and walks the neighborhood frequently. Watts took the time to look over the owner’s backyard and offered some tips on how to keep Maggie from getting out again.
Street dog Lori, whose owners decided they really didn't want her after all. (Chris Watts)
Street dog Lori, whose owners decided they really didn’t want her after all. (Chris Watts)
Next came a wonderful couple into Petropolitan hoping to identify a wandering dog (right) that had been skulking around scared among nearby houses for a week, seemingly waiting for someone to pick her back up. Watts checked for a chip and, sure enough, another owner was found. But this conversation didn’t go so well. At first, the owner expressed joy, saying the family had been looking for Lori since October and would be right over. When they didn’t show up, Watts called again and was told to find someone else who wanted Lori or take her to the animal shelter. This family actually didn’t want Lori back.
The original sweet-hearted couple who found Lori are taking her to DAS today; she’ll likely be available for adoption.
That’s just the start of the weekend stories from the streets of Oak Cliff.  There’s the husky who stands outside the back door of a fast-food restaurant waiting for handouts.  An intact male pit bull walking among traffic at Tyler and Davis. A puppy lost at Kidd Springs.  A German shepherd that regularly hangs out at the corner of Zang and Illinois. Other stories too sad and complicated to tell quickly.
This is why we need wholesale reform.
 VideoKhaleesi and the need for an animal crimes unit
Watching null 

I’ve focused most of my attention on loose dogs and the quality-of-life issues that they and neighbors endure in southern Dallas. But another area of need involves the city’s lack of an animal crimes unit. Of the 10 largest cities in the country, Dallas is one of four with no investigative unit within either the police department or sheriff’s operation. Austin and Houston have them; San Antonio, like Dallas, does not.
Let me explain why this matters. Remember Khaleesi, the sad-eyed tan and white dog rescued in January by Dallas firefighters who quickly discovered her throat had been slashed? (The video telling her story, from KXAS-TV/NBC, is posted above.)
The Station 46 firefighters were at a Red Bird neighborhood home trying to extinguish a blaze, which seemed to have been intentionally set. (Neighbors around this sketchy property saw someone pouring gasoline around the structure before the fire erupted.)
As DMN writer Julie Fancher reported, once the fire was out, a female pit bull approached the firefighters inside the house and laid down at their feet. The rescue workers quickly realized her throat had been cut.
Firefighter Joseph Nguyen said: “It was deep, fresh, very clean. We suspected whoever lit the house on fire did this to her.”
The story of Khaleesi, who received her name from firefighters, has a happy ending: She underwent emergency surgery and is recovering under the care of DFW Rescue Me, a nonprofit animal organization based in Denton. With Khaleesi is her puppy, who was found hiding in a dog house.
What the stories back in January didn’t point out was that no animal cruelty investigation took place on behalf of Khaleesi.
But now, just as those firefighters were her heroes, Khaleesi,  in turn, may be a hero for other dogs who suffer abuse. That’s because Khaleesi’s story puts a face on the need for the city of Dallas to create a strict protocol for how to handle animal cruelty investigations.
Because no such protocol is in place — because no one is in charge of these cases and we have no animal crimes unit  – there was no clear reporting procedure when Khaleesi was found. If there had been, a careful investigation — and possibly charges– could have followed.
Let me be very clear here: I don’t believe any one — and that goes double for the firefighters and rescue group that came to Khaleesi’s aid — is to blame for the fact that no cruelty case was filed on behalf of the dog.
Finger-pointing isn’t appropriate because, although Dallas firefighters or Dallas police, who were also on the scene of the fire, could have started an investigation, they are not officially charged with doing so.There is simply no structure or rules in place for animal cruelty investigations. And that means perpetrators of cruelty can slip between the cracks.
This lack of accountability is the same issue that Stephanie Timko and others have been raising regarding the dead dogs dumped in the Dowdy Ferry area of southeastern Dallas.
Fixing this system is important, not just for the vulnerable animals, but for human beings as well. We know that abuse of pets is often an indicator of child abuse or domestic violence. Ditto for those two crimes being markers for animal abuse as well. The same is true for drug users — they often turn out to also be animal abusers.
Police reports show that the house where Khaleesi was rescued had a history of violence — accusations involving drugs, gunshots and aggravated assault. At least once, 311 was called — to pick up a dead puppy.
This is why we need wholesale reform. This is why we must keep calling on the Dallas City Council to make animal welfare a No. 1 priority. City staffers and leaders are beginning to build the next fiscal-year budget. Now is the time to make your voice heard on this issue.
Copyright The Dallas Morning News


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