Council votes to put down dog
The Austin City Council denied an owner's appeal Monday of a city dangerous dog declaration and voted that the dog should be destroyed.
The owner's appeal came after his dog killed another dog at Austin's new dog park on June 24.
"My dog is not a bad dog," said dog owner David Davenport.
Haley Battin, 19, reported to Austin police that her dog, a Chihuahua, had been killed by a pit bull on the morning of June 24 at the dog park. She told police she and her three dogs were in a fenced area within the park when the pit bull ran along the fence line. She said the pit bull got into the fenced area, took the Chihuahua in its mouth and shook it violently, according to Austin Police Chief Brian Krueger.
Battin said Monday that she attempted to get her dog away from the pit bull (by grabbing the pit bull's head), but "it wouldn't let go." Davenport, 42, said he told the pit bull to let the dog go.
"If my dog was so aggressive, he would've ate your hand off," Davenport said.
Davenport talked to police about the attack that next morning. He said he was cleaning up after his pit bull when, the next thing he knew, the dog had the Chihuahua in its mouth, according to police. Davenport told police he didn't see any blood or puncture wounds on the Chihuahua so he thought the dog was injured but not fatally.
Second dangerous dog appeal this year
The council had two decisions to make in regard to the appeal filed June 29 by Davenport: whether the dog was a dangerous animal and whether it should be destroyed. Had the council chosen to declare the dog dangerous but that it should not be destroyed, Davenport would have needed to comply with a long list of regulations.
This is the second time this year the council has had a dangerous dog appeal hearing. In March, a pit bull attacked and killed a small dog in northeast Austin, Krueger said. The owner was ordered to have the dog put down; she appealed to the city council, which declared the dog dangerous and ordered it destroyed.
As with the appeal hearing in the spring, council member Steve King talked about the difference between emotion and fact. Citizens rely on the council to enforce the ordinance as it's written, he said.
"I think our job is to delineate out the emotion and look at the facts," King said. "The facts are clear that the dog is a dangerous dog."
Austin police officer Joe Milli was one of the witnesses during the hearing. He had assisted Community Service Officer Jim Dugan in securing the pit bull from the residence to take it to the pound after the notice was served. When Davenport took the dog out of the house, "it appeared to be very aggressive, at least toward me," Milli said. He also said he heard Davenport say to Dugan: "The dog will only bite if I tell it to."
At the pound, Davenport's pit bull, Bubba, was more aggressive than the other dogs, Milli said. It was his opinion that the pit bull should be put down, Milli said.
Davenport had a chance to address councilors before they decided. He said he'd rather they not destroy his dog because he loves it like it's his child. He also said it was an accident, and he apologized to Battin.
"It wasn't my fault," Davenport said. "I can do whatever I need to do. I just don't want my dog killed."
Defective fence gate
It was still unclear how the pit bull got into the smaller, fenced area, since neither Davenport nor Battin saw how it enter. Council member Marian Clennon said she felt horrible about the small dog but she was also "having a real difficult time" with the case because they don't know how the dog got inside the fence.
Hoversten said he was informed by an Austin Department of Parks, Recreation and Forestry supervisor that the gate on the west side of the smaller area was defective and has since been repaired. However, Hoversten said the point is not how the dog got in, it's that it attacked another animal. Council member Judy Enright agreed.
"It doesn't matter how that dog got in there," Enright said. "It did kill this dog, and that's what we have to remember. The bottom line is it killed it. It has shown that it's dangerous."
Council member Roger Boughton said the pit bull didn't appear to him to be vicious because it wasn't growling or barking, it dropped the smaller dog when requested and there was no blood. Therefore, he didn't see a pattern of a vicious dog, Boughton said.
"I don't think there's any better evidence of viciousness than a dog that kills another dog," Hoversten said.