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If passed, city budget would increase funding for Animal Care Services amid concern over dog bites

$26 million of the FY 2024 city budget could be allocated to Animal Care Services (ACS) if approved next week. That's a 26% increase in funding from last year.

SAN ANTONIO — A man was rushed into emergency surgery, then a toddler was bitten on the face.

Both were victims of two separate dog attacks this week alone in San Antonio.

Now, $26 million of the FY 2024 city budget could be allocated to Animal Care Services (ACS) if approved next week.

That's a 26% increase in funding compared to last fiscal year.

Residents are telling city councilmembers something must be done about these dog attacks.

Since last October, ACS has responded to 28 of these cases where someone was seriously hurt.

Wednesday, a dog bit a 20-month old in the face. It happened on Cotton Grass Road on the far west side. 

"I learned my lesson: Never, ever, ever babysit any more dogs with a toddler in the house," said Mary, the toddler's mother, who did not wish to share her last name.

Mary says she was told the dog, a pitbull mix with three legs, was great with kids. So she decided to bring allong her toddler to dog-sit for her friend.

"My son was playing there with his little Tonka toy and [the dog] just jumped out of nowhere and bit my son in the face," said the mother.

She says the dog darted at her son from across the room. 

"There was a lot of blood," she explained.

The child did not need stitches and medics told the mother a hospital visit wasn't needed. As for the dog, ACS let the owner take the animal home and it will have to quarantine for 10 days.

"Right now, only 44% of the calls that we're getting are being responded to for ACS," said District 1 City Councilwoman, Dr. Sukh Kaur.

Kaur says the $26 million in the proposed budget for ACS would add 29 new employees to the agency.

"Who will be able to go out in the streets and reduce the time it takes for a dangerous dog to be assessed," Kaur explained, saying response times would likely be cut in half.

ACS will also add team members to specifically handle dangerous dog cases.

In San Antonio, 111 dogs are legally designated as dangerous. 123 are designated as aggressive.

ACS says the majority of dog bite cases involve dogs that are owned and illegally off their property. 

If approved, the new budget will also enable ACS to boost spay and neutering from 25,000 to 44,000 animals.

"You are accessible for low cost spay and neuter based on your zip code, so we heard some advocacy around potentially being able to change that based on your income level," said Kaur. "We're not letting off the pedal just yet. We still have a week to advocate for even more."

Kaur is also advocating for the return of the city's spay and neuter mobile unit. It's a traveling van that, she says, will help eliminate transportation barriers for residents.

In the meantime, it's important to remember dogs are not allowed off their property without a leash.

If a dog is off property and bites someone or destroys someone's property, the dog's owner or caretaker is legally liable.

City Council is set to vote on the budget September 14.

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