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No Charges for Mauling Dogs' Owner?


Milam County Sheriff Charles West says the pack of dogs that mauled Lillian Stiles was never violent, and even played with the owner's grandchildren.

"They were quite shocked that these animals could do something like that and would do something like that," West said.

The pit bull-rottweiler mixes were euthanized Monday and taken to Austin for rabies testing.

"Our purpose in investigating this very tragic event is to find out if there was any criminal responsibility which could be placed on a particular individual," West said.

"There needs to be some sort of legislation that if you choose to have a dog like this a rottweiler pitbull breed, then you need to be accountable for their actions," said the daughter of the victim, Marylin Stiles.

But Milam County officials say they may have hit a dead end on the search for a possible charge. Like most rural counties, Milam has no regulations on keeping personal animals on one's property. And there is no state law pinning responsibility on the owner for a crime committed by an animal.

A "dangerous dog" chapter of the Health and Safety Code does exist. That label is placed on a canine that makes an unprovoked attack on an individual outside of their enclosure. After an investigation by animal control, owners can be placed under regulations.

Of course, these dogs had no history of violence towards people.

"Through that, the only thing we could do is destroy the dogs," West said. "We could take court action and get the dogs destroyed. That doesn't put any civil or criminal penalty on the owner of the dog."

If test from Austin show the dogs were not properly vaccinated for rabies, the owner would face a Class C misdemeanor charge.

"It's appalling to me that with a tragic event like what occurred, you go write somebody what amounts to a traffic ticket," West said.

The sheriff refers to it as a tragic event because the law may not deem Saturday night's mauling as a crime.

The preliminary autopsy on Stiles is due back tomorrow.


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