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Veteran’s Death By Pit Bull May Result in Investigation by San Antonio Animal Control

ANIMAL WATCH

ANIMAL WATCH - An attack by two Pit Bulls in February 2023 killed 81-year old Air Force veteran Ramon Najera in the City of San Antonio, and local residents are demanding that this not happen again due to a failure of local government to take action against owners of dangerous dogs which have been reported but ignored by city Animal Control.

 

Ramon Najera, was buried with full military honors at a private ceremony at Fort Sam Houston.

 

HERO NOT FORGOTTEN  

“Saturday marks a year since the tragedy that put dog attacks in the San Antonio spotlight,” News4SanAntonio reported on February 24, 2024.

That report, sadly, occurred when Najera and his wife, Janie, visited their seamstress to pick up his uniform for his new job as a security guard. Three Pit Bulls escaped from a fenced yard next door, with two launching an attack on the couple so violent that it resulted in the death of the military veteran and serious injury to his wife. 

Neighbors did all they could to stop the attack by spraying the dogs with water hoses and honking their car horns, but nothing deterred them until the San Antonio Fire Department personnel arrived. The Fire Captain was also bitten on his leg attempting to stop the attack, while firefighters stood on top of cars swinging pickaxes which also did not deter the dogs, according to the report

Finally, the dogs were captured and ultimately euthanized . Najera was treated at the scene and transported to the hospital where he succumbed to his injuries. His wife was in critical condition but survived.  

CHANGES NEEDED IN HOW VICIOUS DOG REPORTS ARE HANDLED

And, since then, nothing has changed in the Department’s handling of complaints which warn of aggressive and dangerous dogs that are not properly confined, although the City of San Antonio has been directly contacted by alarmed residents. 

These particular  Pit Bulls were involved in a previous  attack, and neighbors  reportedly had tried to notify the City about them several times since then. It was not an unusual scenario until it materialized in a death and serious injury that had been predicted by callers. .

The dog owners, Abilene Schnieder and Christian Moreno, were indicted for Injury to the Elderly and a Dangerous Dog Attack Resulting in Death. 

“At least two neighbors had been bitten by the couple’s dogs before the deadly attack and reported their injuries to ACS. But animal control officers didn’t notify those victims that they could file a dangerous dog affidavit, which would have triggered a more serious investigation of the animals. Such a probe could have resulted in the dogs’ owners having to comply with a long list of strict requirements.” according to the Express News.

SAN ANTONIO ANIMAL CONTROL EXPLAINS AFFIDAVITS

 In a detailed discussion of obtaining affidavits on dangerous dogs, Lisa Norwood, Public Relations Director at San Antonio Animal Control, told the  San Antonio Report that “the department follows state law when it comes to dangerous dogs, and after a dog bite report is made, the victim or witness must file a notarized “dangerous dog” affidavit with the department before it can launch an investigation.”a

COUPLE INDICTED FOR DEATH OF RAMON NEJARO, TRIAL SCHEDULED

Christian Moreno and his wife, Abilene Schnieder (pictured above) were indicted six months after the deadly attack, and each will face two felony charges for “failing to restrain their dangerous dogs, causing an attack causing death,  which is a second-degree felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

Each also faces charges of “causing bodily injury to the elderly,” which is  punishable by up to two years in prison. 

The Bexar County District Attorney said, “Hopefully, this will serve as a notice to the public at large, that if you fail to maintain your vicious dog in a manner that exposes you to criminal liability, we will certainly review cases brought to us by law enforcement and make decisions to prosecute those individuals,” 

BASIS OF THE INDICTMENT

The allegation which served as the basis for the indictment was that, “Moreno failed to secure a dangerous dog he owned. The fence he maintained had numerous holes to escape through, causing the deadly attack on Feb. 24,” according to the court document.”

CITY TO OPEN TWO NEW SPAY-NEUTER CLINICS TO CURB STRAYS

 

On June 29, 2024, the San Antonio Press announced that two spay-neuter clinics are being funded and opened to serve the communities that most need the availability of this service. 

In light of the number and severity of attacks, it appears that City government realizes that it is necessary to not just report attacks but also decrease the number of dogs being produced in San Antonio.  

However, the need to develop a way for attacks to be prevented by anonymous reports of dangerous and/or loose dogs, with sufficient information and locations being included, is also needed, and, in some cases, it is essential to save lives and provide safety.

On May 7, 2024, KENS5  reported,  City councilwoman wants owners of dangerous dogs to face stiffer penalties 

“San Antonio's Animal Control Services (ACS) department saw a boost in funding last year, but a City Council member is looking to keep the momentum going by empowering ACS to sterilize stray dogs and putting owners on notice that fines will be higher,” the report stated.   

Councilwoman Marina Alderete Gavito's proposals – outlined in a Council Consideration Request (CCR) submitted to the City Clerk last week emphasized the issue of "canines being allowed to roam" city neighborhoods. 

The document cites a 2019 ACS study which found there were almost 34,000 dogs loose on San Antonio streets "at any given time." 

The Councilwoman stresses that the goal is to hold irresponsible pet owners accountable, according to the report

"This crisis that we are feeling in the city, it's not created by dogs," she told KENS 5 on Tuesday. "It's created by people. We need to be tough on them in order to curb the problem."

Among changes sought is seeking harsher monetary penalties for owners whose dogs are found running around off their property, and stiffer penalties for not obeying ownership laws.

Gavito also wants ACS to be able to spay or neuter dogs found running loose in the streets, so long as they are medically cleared for sterilization. 

AND, she wants neighbors who report dangerous dogs to be protected when they do so by using a pseudonym for them. Per the CCR, the initiative would safeguard residents against retaliation.  

She is also gaining support among other council members.

“The dangerous dog problem is a public safety issue, and so we needed to address it," she said. "Today I was glad that the governance committee pushed forward my policy proposals to address it."

POLITICAL RHETORIC MUST BE BACKED BY ACTION 

David McCary, assistant city manager and interim ACS director, expressed support for Alderete Gavito's proposal, stating:

"We don't ever want to forget that a life was lost as a result of a roaming dog. It's tragic," he said. "We're never going to forget it. We want the community to know that not only do we care for them, but we're going to do everything within our authority to make certain that doesn't happen again."

SAN ANTONIO - A CITY WITH POTENTIAL IMPACT ON U.S. ANIMAL CONTROL

Downtown San Antonio  

San Antonio is the second largest city in Texas, and the seventh largest city in the USA, with roughly 1.5 million residents spread across approximately 500 square miles.

Investigating reports of cruelty or irresponsibility before they continue to the level of a crime—or a death--should be the goal of all animal control agencies across the nation.

A complainant is not in the same category as a witness to a crime, where a signed or testimonial report is required to bring charges, and that is exactly why reports of mistreatment or lack of control of animals which can be a danger to public safety should be a priority.

The other important aspect of San Antonio Animal Contol’s success will be developing a method for community members to anonymously report dogs that are a potential safety hazard, or being mistreated or used for illegal activities, because of its proximity to the Mexican border and the transport of Pit Bulls across the border in both directions for fighting--dogs that are fixated on and able to kill a dog or a human with proficiency. 

Fatal or serious attacks by Pit Bulls are occurring daily in various parts of the United States. It is time to end the permissive attitude toward this breed and hold owners fully accountable. Behind each attack is an owner who somehow did not take responsibility. 

(Phyllis M. Daugherty is a former Los Angeles City employee, an animal activist and a contributor to CityWatch.)