Dog Rescuers Push the Public for Dowdy Ferry Cameras

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DALLAS -- The video opens with a gruesome shot: a mummified dog skull with a wire wrapped around its neck. Then, as the camera pans down toward the ground, you hear Dowdy Ferry Animal Commission member Alisia Lowder say, "They tied the coat hanger around its neck all the way down to the underlying mesh where the dog was left here to die, to starve to death."

That video was posted by the group just this past weekend on Facebook, and is just the latest in a horrifying case of animal cruelty that's led the group to find more than 130 dead dogs on the 'Road of Death' in the past year.

That is why the Dowdy Ferry Animal Commission exists.

"It doesn't go away, so we don't go away, and that's just the way it is," said member Stephanie Timko. "We just get better and better all the time at what we do."

In an effort to truly get better at identifying the people dumping these dogs, the rescue group wants to deliver the next blow to the South Dallas dumpers.

"We need a better tool, and that tool is cameras," Timko said. "We need something that's real time capturing what's going on in these areas."

The City of Dallas has placed cameras across the city, including on Dowdy Ferry Road. So far, they've seen incredible results. A press release Tuesday revealed they've sliced the number of problem areas from 62 to 37 just since January.

"That's been done largely because of our increased presence of cameras, our residents giving us a call, and just creating awareness about the problem," said Erik Wilson, Deputy Mayor Pro Tem in Dallas.

On top of that, 207 arrests have been made this fiscal year, the most ever in Dallas.

"We attribute that to surveillance cameras we've installed, but also involvement from the citizens," said Chief Deputy Paul Hansen of the Dallas Marshal's Office. "This year we've also had cooperation from CrimeStoppers to offer rewards for information involving environmental crimes."

The Animal Commission certainly recognizes the city's efforts so far.

"When we started going to Dowdy Ferry, we would drive by piles of trash that were 10-12 feet high," Timko said. "There were animals tucked back in there that it took us a really long time to find."

Now, though, the group is ready for more, and they feel the onus has been put on them to make it happen.

"It really became clear to us, although it wasn't explicitly said, that unless we aren't ponying up for the cameras there aren't going to be any cameras for our animals," Timko said.

So their next step? A GoFundMe page asking for enough money ($9,600) to buy eight more cameras for the city to place on and near the Dowdy Ferry trouble spots.

Wilson loves the enthusiasm of the group and the fact that they're trying to help in the area he governs.

"They're forward thinking, and they want to work for us," he said. "As a city, we're always looking for partnerships where we can make our community better. I commend them for putting forth the effort and collecting the money. That would be a positive for the area."

He and Chief Deputy Hansen both have their concerns about this particular step, though.

"The concern is, where would we place the cameras? It is private property, so we'd need to make sure to get clearance. The next thing is how it's going to be monitored. If we're going to monitor, then hopefully we'd have a discussion about what cameras they're using to make sure we have the best quality cameras," Wilson said.

"We wouldn't accept any money at all," Hansen said. "It would definitely be equipment, and it would be something that would be in line with what we presently use so we would know that it would be effective."

He went on to say even if the rescuers buy the cameras, it would be a safety concern for them to know where they'd be, meaning they might not even be placed in the Dowdy area.

"I couldn't guarantee that they'd go in a specific area," Hansen said. "We wouldn't want to drive away potential violators because they knew there were cameras."

The dog rescuers would prefer to work with the city, but they said there's always an alternative.

"We will raise the money. We will purchase the cameras," Timko said. "If they are not placed in areas where we know they are criminally dumping dead animals, then we will find a way to monitor it ourselves."

But where would they put them?

"The longer we've been out there, the Dowdy Ferry residents have become more comfortable with us," Timko said. "They know what we're about. They understand the problem. They've been living with it for decades. They want us to help them solve that problem, and they've offered to let us use their private property to do that.

Bottom line...the city can't guarantee they can help in this particular camera crusade, both Hansen and Wilson support the effort.

"We applaud any kind of citizen involvement," Hansen said. "Ideally, what we want around the city is for the citizens to be engaged, to let us know when there's an issue, and to help us gather information."

"If it's going to bring improvement and stop illegal dumping and bring it down to zero, we're all for it," Wilson said.

Hansen did caution, though, that if they decide to go their own way and set up the cameras themselves, a spot on public property wouldn't be illegal but it could be dangerous.

"If they're going to use public areas, public roadways, I think it presents a danger for those people trying to put up any kind of cameras, a traffic hazard, and a hazard just being out in the public like that," he said.

Of course, the Dowdy Ferry Animal Commission has never been one to shy away from potentially dangerous public areas.

"We work for the animals, and we always have to ask ourselves what's best for the animals," Timko said. What's best for the animals being dumped? What's best for the animals being abused? We'll take action based on that."