Erin McCleskey, a 36-year-old Austin woman and State of Texas Certified Process Server, traveled to Manor to serve court documents. Unfortunately, she would not survive her stay in Travis County. Erin, who had previously visited the home twice, unlocked the front gate and entered Donald and Terry Swanson’s property. Terry claims that this is when Erin made a major mistake that cost her life.
The Swansons claimed Erin trespassed on their property to serve civil documents after they had been out of town for a month. Six of the Swansons’ dogs viciously attacked Erin while no one was at home. According to an autopsy, the dogs cut a major artery in Erin’s arm. She bled out after 10–15 painful minutes. According to the medical examiner, all six dogs participated in the assault.
In their absence, a friend was feeding and watering the Swansons’ dogs. Erin’s corpse was discovered later that day by the dogs’ temporary babysitter after she was mauled to death in their front garden. Animal control authorities were sent, and six adult canines implicated in Erin’s murder were confiscated. Officials also discovered 14 puppies on the premises, who were subsequently adopted.
Before they murdered Erin, the dogs were a nuisance, according to neighbors. Next to the Swansons, Gonzalo Grimaldo runs a parking lot. He said the dogs had previously escaped and attacked other animals, including his own dogs, only months earlier. Despite the fact that Grimaldo claims he contacted 911 following the “terrifying” incident, no one replied to his call. Teodoro Vences stated that the dogs also assaulted his chickens.
Neighbor Christi Sparks expressed concern for the well-being of her kids due to the dogs. Since she moved into the neighborhood, Sparks has been hesitant to let her kids play outside for fear that stray dogs might attack them. Despite homeowners’ assertions that the dogs were a nuisance, Austin city spokeswoman Patricia Fraga said there are no animal complaints regarding the property or the animals on record.
The dogs’ owner will not face prosecution for Erin’s murder since they did not whip the dogs on her or instruct them to attack. It would be considered an accident, and the dogs that killed Erin—four of which looked to be Lab-Pyrenees mixes and two Husky-Australian Cattle Dog mixes—would be put in the city’s custody until it could be decided if they were dangerous and should be exterminated. This is when the case takes an unexpected turn.
A court ordered the dogs to be killed, but five of the six canines that mauled Erin McCleskey to death were still alive at the Austin Animal Center over a year later while the Swansons’ attorney, Eric Torbeson, battled to spare their lives. Although one of the dogs died, it was not as a result of euthanasia. Rather, it is said to have died from heartworms. Torbeson, on the other hand, was determined to see the other five live.
“I want the dogs to have due process in court,” Torberson said, explaining that he was so committed to the cause that he took it on for free. “It’s terribly unfortunate that a human being perished.” She made the decision to trespass on the property.” The dogs are given goodies like a loving pet in a home video of the animals engaging with personnel at the center, not like creatures who murdered a human being.
Torbeson wants to restore the animals to their owner, but an animal behaviorist feels they should be put down. According to James Crosby, it is impossible to predict whether they will seriously damage another person or what they will do. “Dogs are sentient beings, and they make choices,” he said. “It’s not safe to try to predict when people’s lives and safety are at stake.”
Torbeson, concerned about the dogs’ well-being, said that keeping them tied up for so long was detrimental to their health. Claire Carter, a former prosecutor in a number of animal cruelty cases, agreed—but only partially. “For something to have gone on for over a year and animals being forced to live that way is inhumane,” Carter said, adding swiftly that attempting to spare their lives via the long appeals process was a waste of time.
Carter feels the dogs should be put down since the state’s role is to keep the neighborhood safe. “It’s rather ludicrous. “They went around the procedures that were in place to expedite this process so that animals didn’t have to suffer unnecessarily,” Carter added. And the 5 animals in issue aren’t the only ones suffering as a result of this apparent misuse of the legal system.
According to the City of Austin, it costs approximately $39.75 to care for one dog per day, calculating that caring for the canines had already cost taxpayers nearly $116,000—a sum that only increased every day until the trial. This injustice is a smack in the face of Erin McCleskey’s loved ones, as well as a spit in the face of taxpayers and other animals who might be cared for with those dollars. When an animal kills a person, it is no longer safe to keep as a “pet” and should be euthanized.
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