By Brittany Anderson
A string of dog attacks across three different neighborhoods in Hays County has dog owners seeking tighter pet policies.
The attacks occurred over the course of one week in Kyle, Buda and San Marcos, all resulting in the death of the attacked dogs.
Tom Embleton of Kyle was walking his two Yorkshire Terriers, Petra and Alexandria, or Ale’, on Oct. 31 when Ale’ was attacked by a neighborhood dog.
During the Halloween evening walk — where kids of all ages were out trick-or-treating, Embleton said — he heard somebody start to repeatedly yell a name, which he assumed was a parent yelling for their child. When he turned around, a dog had Ale’ in its mouth and was shaking her.
“At that point, I tried to kick the dog. It growled at me,” Embleton said. “I carry pepper spray. I started reaching for it. By then, the dog let go of Ale’. She fell on the ground in spasms. I just picked her up and went back to my house to get to the vet.”
But he wasn’t even halfway back to his house before he knew it was too late.
Embleton said that Kyle Animal Control confirmed that the person whose dog attacked Ale’ surrendered it to the adoption agency which they got it from just a few months prior, and that it is not allowed back into Kyle.
Kyle Animal Control Officer Briana Brecher said that per the city ordinance, a leash law requires all dogs be physically restrained within city limits.
The city ordinance includes the process of deeming an animal ‘dangerous’ and the steps taken to either remove them from city limits, humanely euthanize them or the rules that owners must comply with in order to keep them.
While Embleton feels that Kyle’s city ordinance regarding dangerous animals could be ‘stiffened up,’ his wife Linda wants to have the state pass a law that makes it a criminal offense for a person to allow their dog kill another dog. Even with the city ordinance, Embleton said a major problem lies in the ‘hole in the reporting system.’
“I would like to see people get educated on reporting the dogs,” Embleton said. “When people use Facebook and Nextdoor instead of reporting it to animal control, animal control officers have no idea a dog is loose or has attacked.”
Brecher echoes similar sentiments.
“Our ability to contact a pet owner before an issue becomes a chronic one can potentially avoid a bigger incident,” Brecher said. “We can provide them with options or resources they may not have known were available. We make every effort to return animals to their owners and avoid bringing animals to the shelter.”
Embleton said he still tries to walk everyday with his other dog, Petra. He wears a photo of Ale’ around his neck on his walks.
“She’s walked 8,000 miles with me,” Embleton said through tears. “I’m just trying to get to 9,000.”
While Embleton and his family have been able to find some semblance of closure knowing that the dog is no longer in their neighborhood, he still said that the ‘human side of this’ can be negative — something Holly Jones of Buda can relate to.
Jones is still searching for the dog who broke through her backyard fence and viciously killed her German Shepherd Hagrid on Nov. 5.
“Hagrid was a 90-pound German Shepherd. The attack that he went through, I don’t know if a human would have survived that,” Jones said. “At this point we’re looking for a dog who has marks of a struggle. He was definitely left with our dog’s blood. The evidence is fading away. Somebody is evil enough to not have a conscience to not even report that their dog did something.”
Jones said she is now paranoid to be in the backyard with her 19-month-old daughter for fear of what could break through.
“Her toys are 10 feet away from where the hole in the gate was,” Jones said. “It could have been a human. It could have been my child … Never has it crossed my mind that our backyard was not a safe place.”
Like Embleton, Jones believes that there needs to be stricter rules regarding both attacking dogs and their owners.
“I understand breeds can differ on how they’re raised, but there has to be some sort of record of, if your dog escapes, the owners need to be held liable,” Jones said. “If it escapes one time, it’s going to escape again. There has to be some way of holding pet owners responsible, especially in residential areas. I feel like this should be common sense but it’s obviously not.”
Jones, who reported the attack to animal control and has been in contact with them since, said that she has done a lot of the ‘police work’ in trying to find leads. She said that, through the help of eye witnesses and new footage, she feels she has been able to positively identify a vehicle and dog. She is also concerned that this situation could be tied to pitbulls being bred for fighting — but has not received any solid feedback from animal control.
“I know I’m not the only [animal control]case, but I feel like this is also a very time-sensitive case,” Jones said, adding that she is planning on reaching out to members of the community who have ties to the city manager in hopes that the police department can get involved and take the matter seriously.
While both of these families are left reeling from the loss of their furry family members, their hope is that by bringing awareness to this issue, these senseless attacks can be prevented, and tighter policies will be put in place.
“I don’t want Hagrid to have died for nothing,” Jones said.
Brecher’s tips for preventing dog attacks
Walk your fence line periodically to monitor for damage. Broken, missing or loose pickets can allow an animal to get out of its fenced-in yard. Wood fences can deteriorate in a short time due to weather. Gates should be kept locked so no one can leave gates open for the dog to escape. Dogs should be taught to not run out of doors, including garage doors.
When walking dogs on leashes, owners need to be aware of how their dogs interact with other dogs and people. Dogs should be walked with properly fitted collars or harnesses so the animal cannot escape, and owners should have a secure hold on the leash.
Nylon or leather leashes no longer than six feet in length are recommended. Retractable leashes are not recommended. Dogs can be protective of their owners on walks, and the farther away from the owner, the less control you have of them.