AUSTIN - A pack of dogs that mauled an Austin woman to death in June 2016 remains alive at the Austin Animal Center per a court order, KVUE's Jenni Lee has learned.
KVUE obtained never before seen video of the dogs interacting with a veterinary inside the Center. In the home video, the dogs are seen eating treats and acting playful, just like anyone's pet, not like killer animals. It's what Torberson wants us to see because he's trying to save their lives.
Only one of the dogs has died but it wasn't from euthanasia. According to the dogs' owner's attorney, one contracted heartworms and died this past summer.
"I want the dogs to have due process in court and I want them to prove that all the dogs killed her if they're going to try to euthanize them," Torberson said.
According to the Travis County Sheriff's Office, the dogs are responsible for mauling Erin McCleskey to death in June of 2016.
McCleskey, a licensed contracted process server for her stepdad's company, was visiting a residence in Manor near Parmer Lane and Harris Branch Parkway on June 15, 2016 to serve legal papers at the residence when she was attacked by dogs upon entering the front gate of the property, according to Travis County sheriff's deputies. Animal Protection officers impounded six dogs from the property. They also found 14 puppies that were living on the property. Those 14 puppies have since been adopted out.
"It's very sad that a human being died. She chose to trespass on the property," said Torberson.
Torberson believes in this cause so much, he is doing it for free. He worries about the welfare of the dogs.Torberson said being kept locked up all this time isn't good for their well being.
Claire Carter agreed with him. She is a former prosecutor who has worked numerous animal cruelty cases.
"For something to have gone on for over a year and animals be forced to live that way is inhumane," said Carter.
But that's where the agreement ends.
Carter said trying to save the dogs' lives through the lengthy appeals process is a waste of time. She said the state's job is to try to keep the community safe which is why she ultimately believes the dogs will be put down.
"It's fairly ridiculous. They have bypassed the procedures in place to expedite this process so that animals didn't have to suffer unnecessarily," Carter said.
According to the City of Austin, it costs approximately $39.75 to care for one dog per day.
Since the court ordered the dogs to stay at the Austin Animal Center, we estimate that caring for the dogs have cost Austin and Travis County taxpayers roughly $116,000 so far.
A City of Austin spokesman said Travis County paid the City of Austin $1.6 million in 2017 as part of an interlocal agreement.
And with the new trial date set for late November, that figure is only set to go up.
According to Animal Protection officers, the dogs involved in the attack appeared to be Lab and Great Pyrenees mixes and two of the other dogs appeared to be a mix of husky and Australian cattle dog.
At a hearing on June 15, 2016, a Justice of the Peace had ordered the six dogs to be euthanized after they attacked and killed the 36-year-old. But the dogs’ owner filed an appeal to keep them alive.
The attorney for the dogs’ owner, Eric Torberson, said the state cannot prove which dog actually killed McCleskey and that McCleskey would still be alive if she would not have trespassed on the property.
Michael Shapiro, McCleskey’s father, released the following statement to KVUE.
We are a family that loves dogs. We have always had dogs. Members of our family have rescues. We are aware that millions of good dogs are killed every year in shelters across the country for want of a loving family. But these are NOT GOOD DOGS. These dogs viciously and repeatedly attacked our daughter until they took her precious life.
Erin was 36; a daughter, a sister, a niece, an aunt and a giving friend to all. She was an animal lover too, who rescued several pets herself.
When no mercy was shown to our daughter, how can mercy be given to these animals? They took her innocent life yet they continue to live theirs. It’s hard to believe that the dogs are still alive and a constant reminder to us of what they did. We are closely following these events with disbelief, both for the fact that the process is still ongoing and for the amount of time and money being spent on their behalf.
McCleskey's family put together the following video in her memory:
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