ATASCOSA COUNTY, Texas - Earlier this month in a rural neighborhood in Atascosa County, Rachel Casanova said her pet was mangled to death by a pit bull who resides across the street from her home.
Casanova lunged at the pit bull to release the dog’s grip on her pet who grasped her five-year-old dog named Tootsie by the neck, she said. In one instance, Casanova said, she put her hand in the pit bull’s jaw to loosen its grip, but the pit bull clinched further into her dog.
“I became like a football player and used my whole body to try to stop the dog,” she said.
Casanova said she felt sore throughout her body, but did not suffer any injuries in her effort to save her dog.
After hearing their mother yell, her teenage children stepped outside, kicking and screaming at the pit bull, but to no avail.
“It was horrible for all of us,” she said.
The pit bull dragged their dead dog underneath the mobile home where his owners live. Casanova's 17-year-old daughter, in a frantic state, knocked on the metal panels of the home, trying to rouse the owners to intervene.
Earlier this week, the pit bull owners apologized to Casanova for the incident. One of the owners, who only identified herself as Ms. Mara, requested Casanova pay for property damages which she claims were caused by her daughter in her attempt to get their attention.
“It’s ridiculous they want me to pay for damages,” she said.
Casanova was advised by officials in a Justice of the Peace office her right to file a small claim against the pit bull owners for the value of her pet.
“I can’t put a price on my dog,” Casanova said. “Nothing will bring her back."
Last Saturday, her family gathered for a small memorial for Tootsie.
The small dog traveled with the family frequently, including trips to Corpus Christi and Colorado. In a picture shared by Casanova, the reddish-brown dog is easily held by a child as she poses with a group of children.
Earlier on the day of the incident, Casanova took her pet to see a veterinarian who determined the dog was in excellent health.
“Why is it okay for a dog to kill another dog?” Casanova asked.
Casanova said the pit bull should be held by the Animal Control Authority and euthanized.
“Animals are not liable,” Director of Animal Control Authority Chief Henry Dominguez said.
“It’s hard to hold the owner responsible if the animal wonders off . . . Some dogs are instinctively aggressive towards other animals,” he said.
Dominguez said incidents involving animals are civil matters unless there is malicious intent on the part of the owner. He said there is no law requiring dogs to be leashed.
A dog owner can be cited by the county for failing to produce proof of rabies vaccine, he said, a Class C misdemeanor determined by state law.
The county is dominantly rural, Dominguez said, with many ranches making it impractical for owners to leash their dogs.
This is the first incident report of a dog killing another dog since the county opened their Animal Control Division in October, Dominguez said.
The county has seen a rapid population increase which has increased the number of dogs in the area.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau 2018 estimates, the county population is 48,981, about a nine percent increase from 2010.
Dominguez said San Antonio residents abandoning their dogs in the rural community contribute to the increase in stray dogs.
The increase in property values in San Antonio has also resulted for individuals to move into the area which increases the animal population.
The Animal Control Authority division opened in October to address the growing stray dog problem.
“(People) buy a one acre lot and buy four or five puppies,” he said.
The roaming dogs impacts negatively the quality of life for the residents, he said.
The county receives complaints from individuals who have been chased and attacked by stray dogs while walking down a road.
Dominguez said he hopes by educating dog owners, it will increase owner’s vigilance to their dogs and decrease the number of animals on the street.