City Councilor Isaac Benton is making the right call in urging the city to release a private investigator’s report – which your tax dollars paid for – regarding the Animal Welfare department’s practices for adopting out animals that fail widely accepted behavioral tests or that could be aggressive.
While the City Attorney’s Office says the report doesn’t have to be released because it was commissioned in “anticipation of litigation,” Benton rightly says it is a public record that ought to be available to the public.
The department and its director, Barbara Bruin, have been criticized by two employees for releasing 132 dogs for adoption last year that failed a nationally standardized behavior test. In some documented instances, the dogs hurt people, including shelter staff, and killed family pets. The accusations were leveled by the department’s second-in-command, Jim Ludwick, and a former behavior therapist, Carolyn Hidalgo.
Benton has also proposed an increase in the insurance requirement for owners of dogs that have been declared dangerous from the current $100,000 to $1.5 million. It makes sense that residents who desire to have or keep a dangerous dog should make sure they can take care of any damage done to others by their pets. In reality, this is important because more people will simply agree they can’t afford to keep 100 pounds of muscle, jaws and a predisposition to attack people or smaller dogs viewed as prey.
Both of Benton’s calls for action make sense in a city that has experienced two vicious and deadly dog-on-dog attacks in recent weeks. It is clearly time for action.
The prudent course for the city would be to let the public know what the report by Robert Caswell Investigations found; what recommendations, if any, were made; and what, if anything, the city did with the information.
This is a public issue. Put the cards on the table and let the public decide whether the steps the city plans to take will adequately address the problem of dangerous dogs being put back into the city’s pet population.
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.