Dogs attacked people in Killeen three times since February, including a March 1 incident that left 2-year-old Raymane Camari Robinson Jr. dead.
Killeen City Council members, as well as candidates seeking election, agree it’s an issue that needs to be addressed.
Mayor Pro Tem Elizabeth Blackstone said she is no stranger to dog attacks. She was attacked last summer while walking her dog on her street.
“I’ve been following all of these attacks very closely,” she said. “It’s a real scary thing, and it’s something that concerns me a lot.”
Blackstone said city officials should discuss hiring more animal control officers.
“I would like to see us have some animal control people on duty after 5 p.m. and on the weekends,” she said. “That’s going to be one of the issues I bring up when we start talking about budgeting.”
Councilman Jonathan Okray, who chairs the Animal Advisory Committee, said the issue concerns him and he plans to put it on the committee’s May 15 meeting agenda.
“It’s something that we need to look at,” he said. “Three times in three months — is this a microcosm of something that’s happening or is there a bigger picture?”
Councilman Wayne Gilmore, who also sits on the committee, said the issue is “on everybody’s minds,” and the committee should examine it.
Councilmen Jose Segarra and Terry Clark both said the council needs to find a way to approach the issue so a solution can be found.
“I have to find out as a council member what we are allowed to do and what we cannot do,” Clark said. “I’m concerned, but what we are allowed to do versus what we want to do are two different things.”
Councilman Steve Harris said he believes the council needs to evaluate each situation and find out where the break in the system occurs.
“We know what happened in the instance where the dog ran out of the garage that was left open,” he said, referring to the attack that killed Camari. “With the latest (incident) of the three dogs attacking, I think we need to find out what happened there. We need to find where the break is in the owners keeping their dogs in their yards. Then we need to go back and look at what needs to be changed.”
Councilman Jared Foster didn’t return a call for comment.
Blackstone, Foster and Okray are seeking re-election May 10.
Candidates running for mayor and council at-large seats also shared their thoughts on how the issue should be approached.
Mayoral candidate Dick Young believes the city’s existing vicious dog ordinance needs to be re-examined. He said he reached out to Camari’s parents and offered them assistance.
“No child or person should walk the streets of Killeen or the sidewalks in their neighborhoods fearful of being attacked by a vicious dog,” he said. “I know that we are somewhat hampered by state law on what we cannot do, but maybe our enclosure laws are not as restrictive as they should be.”
Scott Cosper, also running for mayor, said the security of residents is “absolutely top priority.”
“It falls under the vicious animal ordinance, and we certainly need to be looking at that and reviewing it and looking for ways that we can improve that ordinance,” he said.
Mayoral candidate Hal Butchart said more focus should be put on owners, not the dogs.
“Trying to ban dogs based on their breed ... it’s an artificial standard,” he said. Some dogs are “trained to be aggressive” and “the owners should be punished.”
State law prohibits any municipality from implementing breed restrictions.
Council candidate Randy Doyle said the council needs to explore the issue but “it’s a tricky situation.”
“We need to do something tangible that will fix the problem with dogs running loose,” he said.
Council candidate Juan Rivera said he believes it all begins with the pet owner.
“Sometimes owners misuse animals and sometimes they treat them very gently,” he said. “It all begins with the pet owner. I do think that we can go back and examine the policy and see if there is something better we can do.”
Council candidates Gary “Bubba” Purser Jr. and Doris Mims-Owens could not be reached for comment.