Fort Worth's 'dangerous dog' law has fearsome teeth
By BUD KENNEDY
A dog-and-cat chase in far west Fort Worth has led to the World Wide Web, where an up-and-coming Christian musician is pleading to save his beloved family dogs from both Satan and City Hall.
Bass player Jon Myers of the young Myers Brothers Band was gone camping one night in May when his family¢s Akita mix, Libby, and Lab-mix puppy, Lola, were accused of killing a neighbor¢s cat.
Now, Libby and Lola remain caged in the city animal shelter, ruled "dangerous dogs" and threatened with death because a neighbor claimed they wiggled under a fence, attacked a cat, dragged it back to the Myerses¢ yard and killed it.
Never mind that cats are more likely than dogs to find a way through a fence.
To keep their beloved dogs, City Hall says, the Myers family must pay more than $400 "bail" to the shelter, keep them in a cage labeled "Dangerous Dogs," buy $200,000 in liability insurance and keep the dogs muzzled whenever they leave the cage.
All because some neighbor blamed them for the death of a wandering cat.
"It¢s going to cost us thousands of dollars just to keep our dogs with our family," said
Myers, 34, part of a band with a budding national career in Christian "contemporary praise" music.
On the dogs¢ new Web site, http://www.savelibbyandlola.com, most of the 50 comments sympathize with the dogs. On a family Web blog, myerschaos.blogspot.com, wife Amy Myers writes that the family feels "personally attacked by Satan himself."
Just City Hall.
Last October, the City Council voted to add to the "dangerous" category any dog that escapes from its owner¢s property and without provocation attacks any other animal.
In other words, if your collie gets out of the yard and chases down a squirrel, then city animal control officers can legally seize your dog and kill it.
But the law is all about location, location, location. If Libby and Lola were in the Myerses¢ yard when they attacked the cat, then they broke no law. Cats legally must be kept in the owner¢s yard.
Municipal Court Judge Terry D. Lewis declared Libby and Lola dangerous after a July 16 administrative hearing. The neighbor, a lawyer, testified that the dogs slipped under the fence into his yard in the Chapel Creek neighborhood and dragged his tabby, Tink, back to the Myers yard.
The Myers family didn¢t bring a lawyer and didn¢t know how to challenge testimony or present a case, Jon Myers said.
Attorney Mike Hrabal now represents Libby and Lola. He wants a new trial.
"As happens so often, these folks went down to City Hall thinking they would get to present their side of the story like on Judge Judy or The People¢s Court," Hrabal said. "We want a chance to bring new evidence."
The Myers family felt bitten again when they found out that under current Texas court decisions, Libby and Lola stand convicted with no chance for appeal.
The Texas Supreme Court is reviewing whether dog owners should be allowed to appeal the "dangerous" designation to county court.
A city attorney, Gerald Pruitt, said Libby and Lola are not facing a literal deadline.
"The first thing everybody needs to understand is that nobody is going to stick needles in these dogs and put them down tonight," he said.
I asked him whether city prosecutors really want to spend our money in court every time a dead cat is found in a dog owner¢s yard.
"I don¢t know how the cat got over there," he said.
The Myers Brothers Band played a benefit concert last week to raise money. Libby¢s and Lola¢s friends picketed the animal shelter.
One of the signs read "Justice Has Gone to the Dogs."
Bud Kennedy¢s column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. 817-390-7538
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Bless the Bullys