Fifth Ward residents worry calls about stray dogs roaming around aren't being addressed

Alex Bozarjian Image
Friday, December 8, 2023
Woman concerned for safety after stray dogs take over home
A woman is concerned after stray dogs appear to have taken over her home after a fire destroyed it. But she's not the only one worried.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A Houston woman said stray dogs have taken over her property in the Fifth Ward.

Virginia Henry said this started about a year ago when she had to move out of her house on Bleker Street after a fire. The house is now boarded up and marked with a private property sign, but dogs now guard the front door. Henry said she fears even getting her mail.

Henry said her reports to the city's animal control, also known as BARC, were unsuccessful, and that's why she called ABC13.

When Eyewitness News called animal control to check on her reports, they said Henry's came in from 311 as priority 4, which, based on staffing levels, don't always get addressed.

They said one of their supervisors in enforcement appeared to escalate one to a higher priority Wednesday because it was listed as stray aggressive, and the other was escalated Thursday.

On Bleker Street and throughout Henry's Fifth Ward neighborhood, there's a feeling of unease because it seems to be a dog's world, and these Houstonians are just living in it.

"We are afraid. We are afraid, and I don't know what to do," Henry said.

Henry added she's done everything to properly board up and secure her property since she left it a year ago. She says the dogs made themselves at home about a month after she moved out.

"I don't want my neighbors to be scared to come outside," Henry said. "(The dogs) are not mine. I don't want them here, but I can't get rid of them."

Henry reported the dogs to BARC, and her neighbors say they've complained too.

"Like I told the lady, if I shoot the dog, I go to jail, but if the dog bites me, he gets tested, and then he's back out here again. That is not right to us, it is not fair," Sheryln Scott, who grew up in this neighborhood alongside Henry, said.

"311 is not doing nothing for us out here, period," Scott added.

"So you basically feel like these dogs are terrorizing the neighborhood?" ABC13 asked Scott.

"They are. They are definitely doing that," Scott responded.

In a statement to ABC13, BARC further explained the reason certain calls don't get attention.

"Our enforcement division has 34 employees, and 24 of those are actual enforcement officers who respond to calls in the field. They also are assigned to different shifts, so not all are working every day. These team members answer the hundreds of requests we receive on a daily basis. Our team prioritizes Priority 1 and 2 calls because these include animals posing a risk to life and safety."

"I'd just like them to come and take care of this so nobody gets hurt," Henry said.

As of 4:30 p.m. Thursday, BARC said they captured one friendly dog there by using a leash. They said there are a few others that are so scared that they are hiding under the house and will not come out. BARC said they'll come back and bring a trap out on Friday.

"I wouldn't categorize the dogs we witnessed as aggressive," the spokesperson wrote in their email.

When asked for enforcement protocol, they sent the following statement.

"They'll speak to the resident(s) who made the report and patrol the area for any loose animals to capture and bring back to BARC. They'll work to identify any potential owners as well and cite them for any potential ordinance violations. Any animals picked up will be brought back to the shelter to be impounded. Our team back here will then check for any microchips, if the owners weren't identified, and either place them on a six-day hold if microchipped or a two-day stray hold, if not.

As time permits, we'll follow-up with the person who reported the loose animals and return to patrol again, especially if we didn't find any/all of the reported strays when we originally visited in response to high-priority calls."

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