On February 24, 2023, a couple was mauled in a serious dog attack in the West Side neighborhood of San Antonio, leaving one dead and three injured. Let’s explore the details of the news with Ehline Law and our personal injury attorneys.
San Antonio Police Department reported that the violent animal attack happened just before 2:00 PM. When First Responders arrived at the scene of the incident, they saw a dog dragging an 81-year-old man on Depla Street, off Highway 90 and Cupples Road.
According to Fire Chief Charles Hood, the elderly person was completely covered in blood and lifeless when the fire truck arrived. The First Responders also saw a 71-year-old woman, the man’s wife, on the street with extensive trauma over her body from the dog attack.
Besides the elderly person and his wife, the relative of the couple also suffered dog bite injuries as he tried to free his family members from the clutches of the three dogs.
To repel the vicious dogs, the San Antonio fire crew used pick axes, and once they were able to push the dogs back, they immediately secured the elderly person.
The Fire Department chief also suffered dog bite injuries during the rescue operation. Paramedics transported all four injured people to the University Hospital, where the 81-year-old man succumbed to his injuries and died. The other three remained in the hospital, still under medical care.
Hood spoke to media from the hospital, stating that no one should witness the incident they saw today. The dogs involved in the horrific incident not only put the lives of the couple and their relative at risk but also the First Responders and the Fire Department officers eventually tried to free the victims from the vicious dogs.
After initial investigations, the San Antonio Police Department reported that the couple was visiting a family member residing in the house in the neighborhood when three Staffordshire terriers in a nearby property became untethered and broke through the front gate. Witnesses said they saw the couple exit their vehicle when the three dogs attacked them aggressively.
A video taken by a resident on their smartphone showed one of the Staffordshire terriers attacking the elderly man while the two dogs remained on guard, in an aggressive posture waiting to strike.
Following the incident, San Antonio Animal Care Services (ACS) went to the dog owner’s home and took all three pit bulls, two females and one male, into custody. On Friday night, the ACS euthanized two dogs, and on Saturday, they euthanized the third dog.
According to the San Antonio Animal Care Services director Shannon Sims, the deadly attack wasn’t the first time they visited the same property.
The San Antonio Animal Care Services reported confirmed bite cases in January and September 2021 involving two pit bulls resulting in moderate to mild injuries to the victims.
However, the victims declined to file a dangerous dog designation after suffering injuries which led the state to release the animals after a quarantine period to their owner.
According to state law, a dangerous dog designation places particular requirements on dog owners, including the following:
Shannon Sims also mentioned that the ACS visited the same property multiple times in the last two years following complaints of neglect, aggression, and loose animals.
Silvia Hernandez, a resident in the neighborhood, spoke to the media after the ACS took the aggressive dogs into custody, stating that the animals bit her brother in 2021, but the dog owner at the time did not face any consequences.
Silvia Hernandez’s mother, who lives with Hernandez’s brother a couple of houses down the lane, called her daughter in a complete state of shock. Hernandez thought her mother was the victim of a dog attack and immediately ran down to the Depla residence, only to witness the bloody scene.
Speaking to the media after witnessing the aggressive dogs, Hernandez emphasized the need for greater accountability for dog owners who fail to train their dogs properly. She argued that many dog owners use their animals for protection and teach them to be aggressive, putting the lives of the residents at risk.
The San Antonio Police Department arrested the dog owner, Christian Alexander Moreno, a 31-year-old resident, and charged him with a dangerous dog attack leading to death and injuries. Christian Alexander Moreno, 31, continues to be in police custody with a total bail amount of $125,000.
According to San Antonio Police Department, Moreno faces one count of a felony for an attack by dangerous dog causing death and one count of a felony for a dog attack that led to injuries to the elderly woman, with the police stating that it is likely that the charges against the dogs’ owner will increase.
Unlike some states with specific dog bite statutes, such as California, which has the Civil Code section 3342, there is no particulate statute pertaining to dog bites and attacks in Texas. However, in 1974, the Supreme Court mentioned in Marshall v. Ranne case that the state follows the one-bite rule.
Under the Texas one-bite rule, the dog owner receives a free “get out of liability” card for their dog’s first bite or attack. After the first incident of the dog bite, the dog owner must take certain steps to ensure that the dog does not harm anyone again, and failing to do so (negligence) can lead to liability.
The injured victim must prove the following when pursuing a dog bite claim against the dog owner’s insurance company:
Under The Texas Health and Safety Code section 822.005, dog owners may face a felony charge if the owner was negligent in securing the dog, the owner was aware that their dog was a “dangerous dog,” and the victim suffered bodily injuries or death.
In the case of the San Antonio pit bull attack, it was not the first time the pit bulls attacked anyone, meaning that the dogs’ owner had the responsibility to take appropriate measures to ensure that his dogs do not cause harm to others.
The videos surfacing on the internet show that the Staffordshire Terriers were highly aggressive, especially when the Fire Department officers arrived at the horrific scene to retrieve the elderly person.
The neighbors, in this case, Silvia Hernandez and her mother, testified on media that their family member also suffered dog bite injuries from the pit bulls suggesting that the dog owner already knew about the vicious tendencies of his dogs.
In most dog bite cases, the defendant claims a lack of knowledge or that the victim was trespassing on their property as a legal defense to avoid liability. In the San Antonio dog bite incident, it is doubtful that the defendant might use trespassing as a legal liability since the dogs escaped the private property and attacked the elderly man in public. As for claiming a lack of knowledge, that might be challenging, especially with previous multiple incidents of dog bites.
Under Texas personal injury law, immediate family members may bring a wrongful death lawsuit against the dog owner for losing their loved one.
In the case of the San Antonio fatal dog attack incident, the surviving spouse may be able to pursue a wrongful death suit against the dog owner’s insurance company to recover damages for the death of her husband. She may also be able to bring a personal injury lawsuit to recover compensation for the injuries sustained since the pit bulls also attacked her.
Other parties may have a right to recover monetary damages, such as the couple’s relative who also suffered injuries in a bid to save the elderly couple from the pit bull’s clutches.
The surviving family members must reach out to an experienced dog bite attorney to help gather the evidence, prove the elements of negligence, and get them the compensation they deserve.
If you suffered a dog bite injury in Texas, contact us at (833) LETS-SUE for a free consultation, as you may be able to seek compensation.
Michael Ehline is an inactive U.S. Marine and world-famous legal historian. Michael helped draft the Cruise Ship Safety Act and has won some of U.S. history’s largest motorcycle accident settlements. Together with his legal team, Michael and the Ehline Law Firm collect damages on behalf of clients. We pride ourselves on being available to answer your most pressing and difficult questions 24/7. We are proud sponsors of the Paul Ehline Memorial Motorcycle Ride and a Service Disabled Veteran Operated Business. (SDVOB.) We are ready to fight.
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