May 1st, 2020
Never sign a form or document voluntarily surrendering your dog to animal control.

The only rights that our pets have are the rights that are granted to their owners. In forty-nine US states, pets are considered ‘property’, and no one can advocate for the life of your pet except you.

Our government is tasked with to do these jobs: 1) Uphold the laws of the United States and the State of Texas, and 2) provide for public safety. While protecting public safety, officials need to take special care to not violate owner’s property rights.

When owners surrender their pets to animal control, they lose the right to defend their property under the Texas law. Subsequently, the entire due process that the dog owner is entitled to comes to a halt. Animal lawyers and advocates advise dog owners to never surrender the dog to local authorities unless there is a seizure order signed by a sitting judge. Even in cases where a dog has bitten a person, and a 10-day quarantine for rabies has been ordered, the owner has the right to quarantine their dog at a private veterinary facility.

The primary job of local animal control is to ensure public safety. We have found that some local animal control agencies have taken their ‘public safety’ efforts too far. It has been reported that certain animal control staff is more eager to take action against pets in the name of public safety. Dogs that animal control officers deem ‘dangerous’, ‘aggressive’, or ‘vicious’ are especially at risk and have a zero chance to be saved once they are surrendered. Dogs show human traits and emotions such as loyalty, trustworthiness, happiness, fear or jealousy and reciprocate love. Dogs are also animals and individuals. While some dogs will show behaviors triggered by instincts such as over excitement, anxiety, prey drive, food disputes, resource and territory guarding, some will not. They are all different like us. Aforementioned behaviors certainly fall within the range of normal behaviors in the dog world and are manageable according to reputable professional dog trainers. Whether the behavior the dog expressed is prey driven or simply falls within the range of normal behavior in the dog world, no one has the right to fight for the life of a dog except a dog owner.

Dog owners are advised to stay calm when approached by animal control staff to discuss the law and local procedure. Despite distress, trauma and possible pressure from local authorities, dog owners must stay vigilant and think things through. Do not let your local authorities make you think you do not have the right to defend your dog. Do not let local authorities discourage your right to defend your dog. Do not let local authorities take away your opportunity to defend your dog. And do not let them make you think you have no options. Most importantly, never sign a form or document voluntarily surrendering your dog to animal control.

Approximately 162,443 dogs live in Fort Bend County1[1]. Nationally, Forty-five percent of dog owners report that they take pets on vacation because they view their pets as members of the family[2]. Americans love their pets.

Today, in No-Kill shelters across the nation, a dog that has been deemed ‘dangerous’, ‘aggressive’ or ‘vicious’ can be euthanized without counting against the shelter’s Live Release Rate. That is why it is so important to remember that  owners have the granted rights to protect their dogs from arbitrary labeling.

Rescues and advocates should also be wary when working with shelters that shelter staff has a process in place to designate a dog ‘dangerous’, ‘aggressive’ or ‘vicious’. There are steps that can be taken to prevent dogs from being mislabeled. All stakeholders have the duty to understand and respect dog behavior.

Allowing local animal control authorities to deem your dog “vicious” or “aggressive” is allowing them to circumvent the Texas state “dangerous dog “ law and take away your constitutional due process rights.

Fort Bend Pets Alive! sincerely urges all the five public shelters in Fort Bend County to assess their “dangerous” and “vicious” dogs policies and procedures to reflect state regulations and our community values. Fairness and good ethics help gain public trust. Citizens should be able to trust that animal control is a trusted partner when their pets are in trouble, and leave the designation, labeling and euthanasia orders to the courts.

Most euthanasia cases as a result of being deemed ‘dangerous’, ‘aggressive’ or ‘vicious’ arose from a loose dog. It is imperative that owners keep their dogs on leash or in fences at all times. The only exception to this is when your dog is in a designated dog park.

Responsible dog owners empower themselves with a solid understanding of local, state and federal laws governing your property and due-process rights. You can also consult Fort Bend Pets Alive!, “Just Save The Dog” (Dallas) or “Final Frontier Rescue Project” in Austin if you have questions.

· Never allow your dog to run loose, unless they are in a yard with a secure fence or a designated dog park.
· Only surrender your dog if you are presented with a seizure warrant signed by a sitting judge.
· If your dog has been accused of being ‘dangerous’, ‘aggressive’, or ‘vicious’, please engage an attorney or contact Fort Bend Pets Alive!

[1] American Pet Products Association
[2] www. AnimalLaw.Info              

by Claudine Vass, Director of Fort Bend Pets Alive!


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