A deep growl came from the other side of Shaniqua Roland’s front door.
She was pregnant at the time and headed to a doctor’s appointment, but she knew she couldn’t leave the house. Not with the dogs back.
For half an hour, as she tried to shoo them away, a pack of pit bulls snarled and snapped at her metal door. She thought of her sister, who’d recently lost a chunk of her calf in a dog attack. She’d see her doctor another day.
“It’s crazy,” Roland said, sighing. “I don’t walk outside anymore. No way.”
Across the low-income, predominantly black and Latino neighborhoods of southern Dallas, so many stray, sometimes vicious dogs roam the streets that many residents have given up on going outside without a bat or pipe for protection. Some carry pepper spray, others ride in golf carts to outpace the canine cliques.
It’s been a problem for years, Roland said. The daughter she was pregnant with when trapped in her home is now 2.
But a tipping point came in May, when at least four dogs fatally attacked Antoinette Brown, 52, in an overgrown lot just across the street from Roland’s home. The mauling was so vicious–fang marks dotted her body and a chunk of her bicep was missing–that a police officer compared it to a shark attack.
After that, Dallas officials hired a consulting firm, which released a report this summer estimating that nearly 9,000 loose dogs live south of Interstate 30–the separation line in the largely segregated city.
Councilman Casey Thomas, who grew up in and represents a swath of southern Dallas, said the area has been “plagued” by loose dogs for as long as he can remember.
“It’s a huuuge problem,” he said, stretching the vowel for emphasis. “People walking with sticks and golf clubs? That’s a quality-of-life issue.”
The problem is almost entirely in southern Dallas, a situation Thomas attributes to lower spay-and-neutering rates as well as a shortage of veterinary clinics in the poorer neighborhoods. Residents say some of the dogs get left behind after people are evicted, with others dumped into the neighborhood by people from other parts of town.