Every animal is different, but pet owners can provide socialization and training to keep their dogs from becoming dangerous to others, said Ofelia Miramontez of the Killeen Police Department.
“Structured socialization with new people and experiences as a puppy is key to developing a well-balanced dog,” Miramontez said. “Continued training throughout a dog’s life as well as recognizing a dog’s weaknesses and adjusting your training to assist your dog in strengthening those weaknesses are extremely important.”
Pet owners should spend time getting to know their pet and understanding their triggers, fears and aggression responses, she said.
“Work to ensure that your dog is not put into a situation that would cause those triggers to become a danger to him or herself, or anyone else that may be in the area,” said Miramontez.
Killeen Animal Services classify dogs that post a danger to humans as “dangerous dogs” through either the City of Killeen Code of Ordinances or the Texas Health and Safety Code, Miramontez said.
There are two definitions of a dangerous dog, Miramontez said.
First, a dog is classified as dangerous if it makes an unprovoked attack on a person that causes bodily injury, and the attack occurs in a place other than an enclosure in which the dog was being kept or was reasonably certain to prevent the dog from leaving the enclosure on its own.
A dog is also deemed dangerous if it commits unprovoked acts in a place other than an enclosure in which the dog was being kept and those acts cause a person to reasonably believe that the dog will attack or injure a person.
Killeen Animal Services has investigated 1,742 bites and scratches by a mammal since 2014, because they present a potential rabies exposure, Miramontez said.
“Many of these investigations did not relate to dogs at all,” Miramontez said. “And those that did involve a dog, a high number of cases involved bites and scratches that occurred within the dogs’ enclosure or home. These types of cases do not fall under dangerous dog laws.”
Since 2014, about 28 dogs have been declared dangerous by Killeen Animal Services, Miramontez said. There were seven dogs declared to be dangerous dogs in 2017 and 15 dogs declared dangerous in 2018.
However, there are additional cases where the dogs were immediately surrendered to Killeen Animal Services before the dangerous-dog investigation was opened, Miramontez said.
“Those owners were not served with Notice of Dangerous Dog, and are not included on this count,” Miramontez said.
After conducting an investigation in response to a complaint, the Killeen Animal Services manager can declare that a particular dog is dangerous — with no warning if the totality of the circumstances justifies it, Miramontez said.
“A dog does not have to have bitten any person in order for this declaration to be made,” Miramontez said. “If the animal services manager deems a dog to be dangerous, the owner of the dog is provided with written notice of this, and the dog is immediately impounded by Killeen Animal Services, as dangerous dogs are not allowed in the City of Killeen.”
Once a dog is declared dangerous, the owner must take action within 15 days, Miramontez said.
The owner may appeal the dangerous dog determination to the City of Killeen Municipal Court of Record by filing a notice of appeal with the court and attaching a copy of the dangerous dog determination, Miramontez said. The owner must also serve a copy of the notice of appeal to Killeen Animal Services, she said.
Alternatively, the owner can notify Killeen Animal Services in writing that they are making arrangements to remove the dog from the city of Killeen, Miramontez said.
“No later than the 20th day, the owner shall register the dangerous dog with an animal control authority in the city or county for which the dog will be kept and comply with that animal control authority’s rules and regulations regarding a dangerous dog,” Miramontez said. “Killeen Animal Services will immediately release the dog to the owner and the dog will be immediately removed from the City of Killeen to the city or county in which the dog will be kept, and the dog will not be allowed within the corporate city limits of Killeen thereafter for any reason.”
The owner can also decide to surrender the dog to Killeen Animal Services.
If the owner does nothing within 15 days, a hearing will be scheduled for failure to comply with city ordinance and state law, and to determine ownership of the dog, Miramontez said.
The battle starts with spaying and neutering pets, according to Linda Marzi, founder and president of the Killeen Animal Alliance, a nonprofit 501 (c)(3) that helps animals.
Spaying or neutering pets will prevent the overflow of pets needing homes and keep pets from being impregnated by strays, she said.
Pet owners also need to be sure their pets are secured in a well-maintained fence, Marzi added.
“Preferably 6 feet tall,” she said. “Definitely a fence they can’t dig under or climb over.”
This is important both to keep pets safe inside and to keep strays out.
“A dog can smell a female in heat from a long way away,” Marzi said.
Finally, Marzi said pet owners need to be sure dogs are secured in a strong leash with a harness when they are out.
If a pet owner sees a stray dog while out walking their pet, the best thing to do is to calmly turn and walk the other way — taking their pet with them.
“It is also important to be sure your pet understands simple commands such as ‘sit,’ ‘down,’ and ‘stay,’ so you can control your dog in these types of situations,” Marzi said.
Marzi said if anyone sees a stray dog or suspects a dog to be dangerous, they should report them to Killeen Animal Services at 254-526-4455 or the Killeen Police Department at 254-501-8830. In an emergency, call 911.