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Vicious v. Dangerous: Why the City Will Reconsider How It Tracks Troublesome Dogs

There are some slight discrepancies between the state and city laws regarding 'dangerous' or 'vicious' dogs. Pictured here: a dog that's not on either list.

Texas law requires that a dog who’s attacked a human be placed on a “dangerous dog list.” These lists are updated by municipalities and counties, and many publish the dog owners’ names and where they live.

Austin has its own dangerous dog ordinance, but instead of "dangerous," the city uses the word “vicious.” The ordinance was passed more than two decades ago and is less forgiving than state law. But after an increasing number of complaints about recourse for those dogs who violate the city law, members of the Animal Advisory Commission say they’ll reconsider what it means to be a vicious dog in Austin.

By name alone, Austin dogs listed as dangerous seem anything but. There’s “Precious Diamond,” a Labrador Retriever living south of the river, and “Miles Davis,” a female Golden Retriever. In order to get on this list, these dogs would have had to attack a human – that’s state law. 

Below, all of the declared dangerous dogs (as per Texas state law) in the Austin area.

City law says a dog must attack a human or seriously harm or kill another animal in order to be deemed “vicious.” But these dogs don’t get placed on any public list.

David Lundstedt chairs the Animal Advisory Commission. He said members will reconsider the city’s vicious dogs ordinance at their May meeting tonight.

“At last month’s meeting was a woman who actually had her dog attacked by two other dogs, and she was injured also, but for some reason it didn’t rise to the level that requires these dogs be put on this list. And that kind of got our attention,” Lundstedt says.

He says one challenge is keeping the ordinance narrow, so that if the city decides to add these vicious dogs to a list, it doesn’t run on for pages.

“Years ago we were looking at revamping the dangerous dog ordinance, and one of the criteria was that a person felt threatened," Lundstedt says. "I want to be sure we don’t go too far that if somebody just feels threatened by a dog then they’re put on a list.”

Right now, the list of Austin dogs deemed dangerous by state law runs 26 canines long. That list could run longer if the city’s vicious dogs are added — meaning “Precious Diamond,” “Miles Davis” and a Shepherd mix called “Nippy” would have company.

Audrey McGlinchy is KUT's housing reporter. She focuses on affordable housing solutions, renters’ rights and the battles over zoning. Got a tip? Email her at Follow her on Twitter @AKMcGlinchy.
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