The Southern Dallas Spay Neuter Surge, a privately funded program, ended in October after almost six years. The end of this project does not mean, however, there will be an increase in dog attacks.
Key service providers involved in the program including the SPCA of Texas and the Spay Neuter Network now have a stronger presence in southern Dallas, and the city is also better equipped to handle loose-dog situations. Most important, animal advocates say there has been a cultural shift in southern Dallas, where many residents are now well aware that caring for their dogs is also a public safety issue.
Southern Dallas Spay Neuter Surge sterilized a total of 68,000 dogs and provided core vaccinations and microchips, according to a recent city memo. A decrease of 58% in the loose-dog population in southern Dallas since 2016 is proof of the program’s success.
But Southern Dallas Spay Neuter Surge always had an end in sight, even as it was extended for two and a half years, said Aaron Asmus, project manager. Asmus is the chief executive of Resourceful Elephant Group, one of more than a dozen community organizations that were part of the surge that served 23 ZIP codes.
“The intent of the project was getting the community to a place they hadn’t been before […] creating an environment for success in the future,” Asmus said.
Southern Dallas is in a much better position than it was in 2016 when 52-year-old Antoinette Brown was mauled to death by a pack of dogs. The tragedy was a wake-up call for the city. A spay-neuter surge was listed among the recommendations by the Boston Consulting Group, a firm that the city brought in to study the loose-dog problem after Brown’s death.
Without the philanthropic push of the surge — approximately $24 million during its lifespan — much of the weight to sterilize dogs will fall now on Dallas Animal Services. DAS director MeLissa Weber told us she is confident that southern Dallas will “stay on the trajectory that does not get us back to more dog attacks.”
People who receive loose-dog citations can have the ticket dismissed and their pet sterilized with a $20 surgery copay to DAS, which has partnered with Spay Neuter Network and Operation Kindness for spay/neuter events. These grassroots efforts have been instrumental in changing the cultural mindset in southern Dallas, Asmus said.
But setbacks can still happen, like in March 2022, when a pit bull attack left a woman hospitalized. This unfortunate event led to the creation of a five-member Loose Dog Operations Team under DAS. With the help of residents calling 311 to report stray dogs, the team uses a heat map to evaluate hot spots and aggressive behaviors. Loose-dog bites have dropped 20% compared to last year, according to DAS.
This is good news. While city officials and southern Dallas residents must remain vigilant, we should take a moment to reflect on how far we’ve come.
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