Hearing declares dog dangerous

Published 8:19 am Saturday, May 28, 2016

By Mike Louivere

The Orange Leader

PINEHURST — Pinehurst Municipal Judge Derry Dunn held a hearing to determine whether a Rottweiler belonging to Pinehurst resident Joe Fontenot should be declared a dangerous dog.

The dog in question has had complaints filed with Pinehurst Animal Control dating back to 2010. Two residents of the neighborhood testified in the hearing that they no longer walk their dogs past Fontenot’s residence due to the aggressive behavior that the dog exhibits when she sees another dog.

Pinehurst Animal Control Officer John Toney testified that he has had encounters with the dog that on at least one occasion made him fearful.

“Once the dog got out when we were doing some work on a culvert in the area. She began to act aggressively toward us. I knew the dog and knew where she lived and we were able to get her to go back inside the fence. We were lucky that we were able to get her inside and get the gate closed,” Toney said. “If I know where a dog belongs and I am able, I will get it back where it belongs instead of picking it up. I understand that sometimes dogs will get out of their fence.”

On April 26, 2016, a Miniature Schnauzer belonging to Larry Henry, who lives across the street from Fontenot was outside in its yard. The Schnauzer is mostly an inside dog. Fontenot’s dog got out of its fence and attacked the dog belonging to Henry causing injury to Henry’s dog. Henry filed a complaint against Fontenot’s dog as a result of the attack.

Henry also testified that once his dog was outside when he was working in his yard and the Rottweiler saw it and charged across the street and tried to attack his dog.

“I yelled at the dog and she stopped going after my dog and came after me. I ran to my porch and the only thing I had to keep the dog off of me was a rocking chair I could push it away with Joe came running over and got the dog restrained and drug it away from me,” Henry said.

Fontenot and his next door neighbor both testified that the Rottweiler is not a dangerous dog and that she stays inside a fenced yard. The neighbor stated that the dog is even friendly to her grandchildren.

Judge Dunn asked Toney if he felt the dog was a dangerous dog based on his experience with the dog. Toney gave an affirmative answer. Fontenot was asked if he felt his dog was dangerous and he answered “no”.

Judge Dunn made a ruling based on Texas Health and Safety Code Section 822.041. This section gives the description of a dangerous dog. Judge Dunn then quoted the next section of the code that gives the requirements for the owner of a dangerous dog.

Fontenot will have 30 days to comply with the requirements which state that the dog must be kept at all times either on a leash or in a secure enclosure, and that the owner has to obtain liability insurance coverage of at least $100,000 to cover any damages that may be caused by the dog. If the owner does not comply within 30 days, the dog may be seized by animal control.

If Fontenot decides to appeal the hearing, he may do so to the County Court At Law.

Texas Health and Safety Code Section 822.041 reads:

DETERMINATION THAT DOG IS DANGEROUS. (a) If a person reports an incident described by Section 822.041(2), the animal control authority may investigate the incident. If, after receiving the sworn statements of any witnesses, the animal control authority determines the dog is a dangerous dog, the animal control authority shall notify the owner in writing of the determination.

(b) Notwithstanding any other law, including a municipal ordinance, an owner, not later than the 15th day after the date the owner is notified that a dog owned by the owner is a dangerous dog, may appeal the determination of the animal control authority to a justice, county, or municipal court of competent jurisdiction.

(c) To file an appeal under Subsection (b), the owner must:

(1) file a notice of appeal of the animal control authority’s dangerous dog determination with the court;

(2) attach a copy of the determination from the animal control authority; and

(3) serve a copy of the notice of appeal on the animal control authority by mailing the notice through the United States Postal Service.

(d) An owner may appeal the decision of the justice or municipal court under Subsection (b) in the manner described by Section 822.0424.

According to Sec. 14-141, The term ‘dangerous dog’ means a dog that has:

  1. Inflicted severe injury or death to a person other than the owner or member of the owner’s immediate family, without provocation on public or private property;
  2. Has killed or severely injured a domestic animal without provocation while off the owner’s property;
  3. Has a known or apparent propensity, tendency or disposition to attack unprovoked, to cause injury, or to otherwise threaten the safety of persons or domestic animals.