The killing of two dogs last week by authorities and the resulting public debate has Hays County commissioners examining their animal control ordinance this week.
A yellow lab/pit bull mix and a black lab were euthanized at the City of San Marcos’ regional animal shelter about five days after the animals reportedly killed 12 chickens in Wimberley. The incident was reportedly caught on a game camera and the dogs were taken into custody by animal control officers working for the Hays County Sheriff’s Office.
One of the owners of the yellow lab/pit bull, Wimberley resident Erin Pate, had pleaded for her dog’s life in a FOX 7 television news broadcast on Feb. 14. On Feb. 15, the Sheriff’s Office reported the dogs had been euthanized late the previous day.
Hays County Pct. 3 Commissioner Will Conley, in whose precinct the incident occurred, said county law should be changed to give owners of offending dogs more “due process.” Conley said the District Attorney’s Office is preparing possible changes to the current animal control ordinance. He placed the following item on the commissioners court’s Feb. 21 agenda: “Discussion and possible action to amend the Hays County Animal Control Ordinance.”
The commissioners court convenes at 9 a.m. and the agenda items may be taken in any order. Residents of Hays County may speak on any matter during the citizen comment period at the beginning of the meeting, or they may sign-up to speak when an item of interest comes up for discussion.
The meeting will be on the third floor of the Hays County Courthouse, which is located at 111 East San Antonio Street in San Marcos.
Scott Pate released custody of the yellow lab/pit bull to animal control officers on Feb. 13. The Sheriff’s Office initially reported Pate owned the black lab, but later said the animal had been abandoned by a renter who lived next door to Pate. The Sheriff’s Office reported Pate expressed relief about releasing custody of yellow lab/pit bull because it had bitten another of his dogs.
Conley said his wife, who like him is a dog lover and “animal person,” notified him of the incident on Feb. 14. Conley said he called the Pates that day and spoke to Scott Pate’s wife, Erin Pate, who he said was upset about the incident. Conley said he examined the animal control ordinance and drove to the animal shelter the next morning to see if they could “buy more time.”
“But unfortunately, the dogs had already been euthanized,” Conley said.
Conley said owners of dogs accused of livestock destruction should be given more options.
“There is no due process in the current animal protection ordinance,” Conley said.
Hays County’s animal control ordinance requires the killing of a dog found to have attacked livestock, and the law provides no exceptions. Owners who fail or refuse to allow their offending animals to be killed may be charged with a class B misdemeanor punishable by a fine of no more than $100. Owners may also be confined in the county jail for no more than 30 days.
Additionally, the ordinance allows a peace officer or magistrate to enter private property and kill livestock-attacking dogs if the owners do not. The ordinance also allows anyone who witnessed the attack or “has knowledge of the attack” to kill or impound the offending dog without being required to compensate the owner.
Conley said the section of the animal control ordinance dealing with “dangerous dogs” provides more due process.
The ordinance defines “dangerous dog” as one that has attacked a human being without provocation in an area other than inside the enclosure where the dog is kept.
Owners of dogs declared by animal control authorities to be dangerous are entitled to appeal the declaration to a justice court. An animal control officer has no authority to confiscate any dog unless he or she has delivered to the dog owner a written notice of the determination that the dog is dangerous. If the dog is within a residence, the officer must obtain a search and seizure warrant before confiscating a dog. Under the current ordinance, a confiscated dog shall be sheltered for 72 hours, not counting weekends and holidays, to allow the owner to claim the dog after satisfying the requirements of owning a dangerous dog. Unless the owner claims the dog within this time period, the officer may destroy the dog without compensation to the owner.Email | Print