San Antonio – The two dogs that brutally attacked and killed an elderly man, and a third dog surrendered by the owner, had bitten people before, according to an Animal Care Services spokeswoman.
Ramon Najera, 81, died of his injuries after the attack in the 2800 block of Depla Street, off Highway 90 and Cupples Road Friday. The two dogs were confirmed to have participated in the attack, she said, while a third was roaming loose at the time.
All three dogs were surrendered by the owner and euthanized by ACS.
Norwood said the trio had a previous history of at least three confirmed biting incidents between them and possibly a fourth. However, not each dog was involved in every incident, she said.
Two of the incidents connected to the animals were “mild in nature,” Norwood said, while “the third and possibly fourth did seem to, for lack of a better word, worsen in terms of the severity.”
Norwood said the dogs were quarantined each time but returned to the owner afterward.
While the owner has to pay fees to get a dog back in that situation, Norwood said, the city can’t simply take the dogs.
“Because, remember, pets are property in the state of Texas,” she said. “So I cannot take somebody’s property away from them.”
If a dog is determined to be “dangerous,” though, the owner can be forced to take numerous extra precautions, like keeping it inside the house or a special enclosure, getting $100,000 of liability insurance, and keeping it muzzled and leashed when outside the enclosure.
If the same dog attacks someone again after being labeled “dangerous,” a court can order it to be euthanized, according to city code.
There are currently 111 dogs labeled “dangerous” within the city, she said. The label remains with a dog for its entire life.
Giving a dog that label, though, requires proving it injured someone in an unprovoked attack outside its normal enclosure. Multiple “acts” outside a dog’s normal enclosure that don’t injure someone would also count, so long as the person reasonably believes the dog will attack and injure them.
However, to start a dangerous dog investigation, Norwood says, an ACS officer needs to witness the incident, or they need an affidavit from a witness or victim.
“Unfortunately, in this case – these cases, rather -there was not somebody that was willing to do that,” Norwood said.
Ultimately, Norwood said that ACS followed the law when dealing with the dogs.
“If there’s changes that the community wants to the law, that’s something that is external to ACS,” she said.
The dog’s owner was arrested the night of the attack on felony charges of attack by dangerous dog causes death and injury to an elderly.
San Antonio has a well-documented issue with loose dogs.
Of the more than 87,000 calls for service that came into ACS during the 2022 fiscal year (Oct. 2021 – Sep. 2022), Norwood said a large number were for animals roaming loose.
The city recorded 3,592 bites during the same time frame, but that number includes any time any kind of animal breaks someone’s skin or a person is exposed to high-risk wildlife like skunks or bats.