It’s been six months since Ed Jamison came to Dallas as the head of the city’s Animal Services Department. That milestone came days after a woman was mauled by four loose dogs in South Dallas. She survived, but the attack again highlighted the longstanding problem of loose dogs in that area.
In our Friday Conversation, Jamison talked to KERA about what his department’s doing to curb the issue. He said the $13 million private effort to spay and neuter dogs has made a difference, though it fell short of its goals.
"I think there are challenges that have come up," he said. "A lot of people in the South don't understand the importance of having their animals spayed or neutered."
Jamison said through education efforts, Dallas Animal Services aims to be a resource to pet owners.
On why pet owners don’t spay, neuter or vaccinate their dogs:
There's the old-school stereotypes of having one litter makes them healthier and there are a lot of things that just are not true. It just has not been brought across that their animals will actually be healthier and have less nuisance behaviors once their animal is altered. The risk of cancer drops dramatically in females once they're spayed.
Rabies [vaccines] by law have to be administered by a licensed veterinarian. There are some people who get self-vaccinations and believe their animal is vaccinated. Here in Texas, rabies is more prevalent than in other areas of the country so it's extremely important for their health. If they get bit by their own dog and it tests positive for rabies, they will contract rabies. It's a public health issue.
On the most recent dog attack in Fair Park:
What's frustrating is that we've seen reports that those dogs have been out before and we had not been notified of that. We were notified in October, we picked up the dog and we could not tie it back to that house or to that owner. That's the only call we've had. I think people don't realize we need them to call 311. We generate our proactive calls and patrols based on those calls that come in. This [incident] really just came to the owner really needing to contain his animals. This situation never would've happened if those animals were just contained properly.
On the thousands of outstanding citations for animal violations:
We are trying to close the loop on these outstanding warrants. The reality is you really need to take care of those because the marshals will be at your door at some point; they're going to take you to jail. I want this city to look at us as a resource before it reaches a level like that.
On what's he's learned so far in his tenure:
Getting information to people [is the biggest challenge.] I think most people are good at heart and so we're trying to approach them in a way to show them that we're on their side. We have a lot of work to do in North and South Dallas. It's one thing to pass a law and say, "Deal with it on your own." One of the things that drew me to Dallas was the city was willing to say, "We're willing to help every single resident get into compliance." This city takes the issue of loose animals very seriously. If you're a good animal owner, there's a good chance you'll be a better neighbor.
Interview responses have been lightly edited for clarity and length.