Process of registering a dog as dangerous in Harris County has victims of attacks upset

Sierra Gaines says her son is still traumatized from the dog attack that happened in front of their Spring home in 2020. Police documents show it happened in December of that year.

Gaines says as she was driving towards her house, she heard her then 8-year-old son screaming in the front yard. 

He was bitten in the scrotum area by a German Shepherd who lives across the street. The boy was sent to the emergency room for surgery.

"It was terrifying," says Gaines. "I just never imagined things like that happening to our kids."

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Gaines says this was not the first incident with the animal. She says her son was attacked months before while riding his bike on the street.

"He circled around, and the dog was loose," Gaines says. "He was not on a chain, and in the yard again, and he ran out and bit the seat of the bike."

The mother of four says the dog is still across the street, and worries about it attacking again. She recently learned it has not been placed on the County's Dangerous Dog Registry.

"I had to fill out paperwork on my own versus Harris County taking care of this. I thought that it was something that they take care of, considering the situation," says Gaines.

According to the Harris County Public Health website, the declaration is a five-step process. A person goes to their Justice of the Peace court and fills out the Dangerous Dog Affidavit. 

The Justice of the Peace Court gives the owner notice of the complaint - and after receiving notification, has 5 days to deliver the animal to the County Public Health office where it will be held until the legal process is completed. You can read more about the process here.

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When a dog is declared dangerous by the Harris County court, the owner can either have the dog euthanized, or place it on the dangerous dog registry. Registration also means opening a $100,000 insurance policy for the animal, keep it in a highly-secured, fenced-in area with "dangerous dog" labels visible.

You can also see an interactive map of the dangerous dog registry here.

Her attorney Patrick O Hara has provided legal services to more dog bite victims this year and says local law enforcement should let victims know what rights they have immediately.

"In Harris County, they don't tell the victim you can start the process if you wanted to," says O'Hara. "You can fill out the form and see if the dog can be declared dangerous. Harris County and Houston PD need to do a better job of taking these types of cases seriously."

We reached out to the owners of the German Shepherd, but they declined to comment. O'Hara says he and Sierra Gaines will be seeking compensation from the dog owner's insurance company to cover the boy's medical expenses.