June 12, 2016 – By NAOMI MARTIN, SARAH MERVOSH and TRISTAN HALLMAN – A pack of dogs tore large chunks of flesh off a 52-year-old woman last month in South Dallas — and then menaced others in the neighborhood for days before city officials captured them, according to a report released late Friday.
The 79-page report, sent to City Council members, sheds new light on Antoinette Brown’s death and its aftermath. It identifies more than a dozen shortcomings — for example, major communications breakdowns between Dallas Animal Services and police — that illustrate how much more Dallas needs to do to fix what Mayor Mike Rawlings has called a loose dog “crisis.”
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Brown, a homeless Army veteran, was attacked by dogs around 4 a.m. May 2 near Rutledge Street and South Trunk Avenue. One arm was torn up so badly that bone was exposed. A large portion of her right upper thigh was missing, the report said.
“I’ve seen a lot of dog bites, but these … I’ve never seen anything like this. She looked like she was attacked by a shark,” a Dallas police officer would later tell a dispatcher.
Brown died days later at a hospital. A doctor there said he stopped counting at 100 dog bites, according to Brown’s family.
Dallas police who responded to 911 calls about the mauling could not find the dogs. And they didn’t tell Dallas Animal Services about it until May 5, according to the report.
Listen to the 911 calls
In the meantime, neighbors repeatedly called the city services line, 311, to report that the dogs were still out and about.
“Those dogs came back that attacked that woman,” one woman told a 311 dispatcher.
The dispatcher, apparently unaware of what had happened to Brown, told the caller that because the dogs weren’t actively attacking someone, officers have up to 72 hours to respond.
The caller said she was going to reach out to 911 because “this dog almost killed the woman, probably did. Almost killed the woman last night right here outside my house.”
A caller around 3:45 a.m. on May 4 told police that three pit bulls were running after him and said the dogs were the same ones that had attacked other people.
A Dallas officer told 311 that it was “the exact same place and the exact same dogs” as two days earlier.
A dispatcher tried to call the Animal Services officer on duty, but the officer missed the call. The officer called back an hour later, but the 311 operator said not to bother; Dallas police hadn’t seen any dogs.
According to Dallas Animal Services policy, a supervisor should have been called within 15 minutes.
The 311 dispatcher agreed to send an animal control officer to set traps in the morning.
The dogs weren’t seized until two days later, after higher-ranking city officials pieced things together.
The dogs that attacked Brown were not strays. They had owners. Dallas police have said the dogs’ owners could face criminal charges, but no arrests have been made and no one has been charged with any crime. But the report also included copies of citations issued to a woman named Maria Cardosa.
No one answered the door Friday afternoon at the single-story house in the 3300 block of Spring Avenue listed on the citations.
The house, located between two boarded-up homes and across the street from a vacant lot, was strung with Christmas lights and had the word NOEL on the front.
Its beige paint was peeling. Its backyard appeared to be enclosed by a metal fence and wooded boards.
Two women, four men and two children live there, said neighbor Netra Reese.
Reese, 48, said she was dismayed but not surprised when she found out about Brown’s death. She said she’d warned the neighbors that their dogs would hurt someone one day.
“It was bound to happen,” she said.
She said other neighbors have long complained about the dogs, and that the city only paid attention after Brown’s death.
“It happened because this is South Dallas and this is the poorest part of the city and they don’t care,” Reese said.
“Now they’re talking about it. It takes someone to lose their life for them to come out and do something.”
That’s not quite true.
Since September 2013, the city took custody of nine dogs and 12 puppies in response to 11 different 311 calls to the address. Dallas Animal Services issued numerous citations and warnings.
But after Brown’s death, officials have revved up enforcement. Since May, the Dallas marshal’s office has arrested 40 people on 159 animal-related warrants.
The city also plans to add animal control officers to provide better coverage during late-night hours — when the attack on Brown occurred.
A deputy police chief has also been assigned to help run Dallas Animal Services and improve coordination with police.
But Reese isn’t taking any chances. She keeps a thick, four-foot-long stick by her porch to fend off dogs.
The stick — more of a club — was a lifesaver during a terrifying encounter about a month before Brown’s death, she said.
Reese and her 6-year-old grandson were on her porch when two of the dogs from the address identified as Cordova’s ran toward them, barking.
Her grandson ran down the street, and the dogs chased him.
She said she smacked the dogs with her stick, as a neighbor ran over with his own stick and corralled the animals.
“You should be able to feel safe and come outside where you live,” she said, “especially if you got grandkids.”