Reports surface of aggressive dogs adopted from Austin Animal Center

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — KXAN has received reports that claim the Austin Animal Center is not properly evaluating and disclosing dogs’ aggressive behaviors before adopting them out to the public.

Two separate people who live in Austin — but do not know each other — shared stories of their own pets being brutally attacked by animals adopted from the shelter.

Jennifer Olohan, the communications and media manager for the Austin Animal Center, said each dog has a detailed profile. Staff records the animal’s interactions throughout their entire time at the shelter. If a dog comes in with previous reports of aggression towards other dogs, animals or people, the staff is trained to ask for more details to help with placement.

Olohan said all notes are given to adopters, and if a dog has specific notes which could be concerning, that dog is flagged for consultation from behavioral team members.

Even still, Olohan said attacks on other dogs and people are rare, and there is no way for the shelter to be able to predict or provide counseling in advance.

In one of the cases reported to KXAN, the owner said the adopted dog killed their pet.

Hemingway, a 14-pound cockapoo, was attacked on Saturday at McKinney Falls State Park. (Courtesy Jacob Walker)

Jacob Walker, who lives in Austin, said his dog was attacked at McKinney Falls State Park on Saturday. He says his 14-pound cockapoo suffered severe lacerations and puncture wounds to his neck, resulting in more than 10 staples from a veterinarian.

“No warning, nothing, and immediately goes for the neck and starts biting him and dragging him away,” Walker said. “He was going to kill my dog. He had him by the throat.”

The dog’s owner gave Walker several documents from Austin Animal Center evaluations. The papers label the dog as a 2-year-old, 62-pound Catahoula named Terry. In an evaluation from a playgroup with other dogs, Terry “got stiff and snappy” and “snarled and snapped.” According to the documents, the shelter also observed Terry “growling/snapping at other dogs who approached.”

The document still shows the animal as a “staff pick.”

“It seems to me that Austin Animal Center was glazing over known issues and that represents a clear and present danger to the public,” Walker said.

In another case, J.D. Mathison said his girlfriend’s dog, Bailey, was attacked and killed by a pit bull mix, Daisy, who they had recently adopted from the shelter. Mathison said staff provided very limited information about Daisy’s social skills and it was difficult to return Daisy to the shelter after they realized it wasn’t a good fit.

J.D. came home from work one day to find Bailey dead.

“It was like a crime scene in there,” Mathison said. “Our home is kind of tainted now. My girlfriend still sees blood here and there. She’s definitely going to have to see somebody for the traumatic things she saw.”

“It just seems like the Austin Animal Center is spread very thin and they are not really taking the time to really see what’s going on with these dogs,” Mathison said. “It’s getting swept under the rug and the only people paying the price are the people who are adopting.”

“I understand Mr. Bland and his team cannot thoroughly evaluate every potential owner. However, when you operate the largest no-kill shelter in the country, you have a legal and moral obligation to present all known issues with these dogs to people naive and arrogant enough to adopt an aggressive dog,” Walker said.

Olohan said the shelter is aware of both of these attacks, but can’t comment on the specifics.

“We have a culture of transparency here, and know that good information is one of the best ways to help adopters make the right choice,” Olohan wrote. “So our staff and volunteers are great about entering notes on the dogs — and cats! — they work with.”

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