Great Dog: Dallas Morning News’ Condemnation of Dallas Animal Services Neither Thoughtful Nor Appropriate

What a Great Dog

This irony escaped most of the mainstream media: while a street woman was mauled by a pack of wild dogs in the bowels of South Dallas in early May, a SECOND store dedicated to teaching dogs manners opened in a Richardson strip mall.

WHAT A GREAT DOG! opened a second location at 655 Glenville Drive, just east of Highway 75 and south of Arapaho Road. That’s more than 15,000 square feet of private lessons and group classes in pet manners, puppy school, dog agility, obedience, AKC Rally, nose work, and tricks.

Yes, dog tricks.

This will be the company’s second location in the metroplex, the first being in Frisco. Dan Spika and Scott Axelrod of Henry S. Miller Brokerage’s Industrial Division closed on the lease. Henry S. Miller Companies is one of Texas’ largest family owned full service commercial real estate firms. Obviously, there are thousands of people who care enough for their dogs to take them to classes at What a Great Dog! Though I love the training guidelines of The Monks of New Skete, you can count on me to bring in our new puppy when he or she arrives.

See, Dallas doesn’t have a dog problem, it has a stupid people problem.

So I found the Dallas Morning News’s call for the resignation of DAS’ Animal Services Director Jody Jones this week way off base. Cluelessness and headline sucking at its worst. It reminded me of the dark days of “health care reform” when “experts” would be telling physicians in the trenches what they should be doing for chronically ill patients: tell them that they need to stop smoking and watch their diet. Oh yes and exercise. Yep, just tell them and, like fairy dust, they will listen and be transformed into compliant little patients.

The Morning News piece acted as if all Jody Jones has to do is wrangle up a few more dogs, sprinkle some fairy dust in the form of citations, and voila: South Dallas’s dog problem would not exist. And Antoinette Brown would still be with us. On the street, maybe, but still alive.

She has stubbornly maintained faith in community outreach as the solution to the loose dog problem. Only under intense pressure did she sign on to a strategy late last year that modestly increased enforcement. Even last month’s expansion of that plan emphasized educational efforts far more than a commitment to pick up dogs and ticket irresponsible owners.

Ticket irresponsible owners? And then what would should she do to them once they are ticketed? Spank them? Call Code enforcement? DAS repeatedly cited the owner of the dog pack, he surrendered 10 and just got more. I mean, we can’t even keep GUNS away from the crazies.

Thankfully, Eric Nicholsen at The Dallas Observer nailed this. His work is totally worth a read. Then check out the excellent reporting from Fox 4 on the illegal dog dumping that goes on along Dowdy Ferry Road — sick. SICK!

It begins when a citizen calls 911 or 311 to report cruelty. According to a FOX 4 analysis of city records, Dallas received close to 4,000 such calls last year.

311 complaints are sent to Dallas Animal Services, or DAS. That’s where the system starts to break down.
DAS doesn’t have a case management system to track those complaints, and even if they could, animal control officers have no law enforcement authority.

DAS ought to get a case management system to track those complaints, but they probably need more manpower.

First and foremost, I agree with Eric and the DMN that Jones’ initial response to the mauling was bizarre –“I hate to say it, but people die in traffic accidents every day,” — and callous. Dogs are animals, not humans, and we should always prioritize human life over dog life. But cruelty to dogs or any animals should always be met with swift punishment, because today’s animal abuser is tomorrow’s murderer, another fact mainstream media missed.

Eric reminds us that Jones turned DAS shelter around dramatically. Remember the cat trapped in the walls that was stuck there for a week? “Shelter workers cringed at the animal’s incessant yowls as it slowly starved to death.” DAS used to be no better than Garland, who, until 2010, gassed stray animals with painful carbon monoxide gas outlawed in many states. Under Jones, he says, DAS was professionalized and adoptions nearly quadrupled, while the number of animals killed plummeted from 21,763 in 2010 to 11,354 in 2015.

The on-the-ground reality in South Dallas and elsewhere seems to suggest that the drop (in number of animals killed) is probably driven mostly by Dallas Animal Service’s move away from its dog-catcher role, a move that has continued even as the department’s mandate over the past 18 months has shifted from lowering kill rates to doing something meaningful about loose dogs. Jones has done a lousy job of adjusting to the new reality.

Jones’ supporters — and there are plenty in the animal welfare community — maintain that this approach is the right one. “The problem is, it’s a self-replenishing supply,” says J.P. Bonnelly, a veteran dog rescuer and member of the Aminal Shelter Commission. “What happens is, irresponsible owners let unaltered pets out. Those unaltered pets get on the street [and meet another unaltered pet]. You get a little Barry White playing, and you’ve got 10 more puppies on the street.”

In the end, it was the poverty in our city that killed this woman, not the loose dogs. And the stupidity. It’s the notion that neutering animals takes away an animal’s manhood, or the owner’s manhood, or some such inane thought process. Jody Jones was trying to clean up a tidal wave with one wet vac. And yes this is a real estate issue because it affects what people think about Dallas when they move here. Why not write an editorial about giving Jody Jones some help, money and power, rather than call for her resignation?