EDITOR’s NOTE: San Marcos City Code prohibits people from leaving animals in unattended vehicles when doing so “endanger[s] the health of the animal due to heat, lack of food or water, or such other circumstances as may cause injury or death of the animal.” Police officers can seize unattended animals thought to be in danger and issue citations to the animal’s owner.
I was traveling through San Marcos going from my home in Austin to my parents’ house in Nixon on July 2, 2013. I was taking my 11- and 14-year-old sons to Nixon to do some work for my father. I had two small dogs with me at the time. My parents had been out of town for several months traveling to Alaska and were still gone. There was no food in the house.
We had plans to stay for 10 days, so we needed a few groceries. I had plans to make a quick stop at H-E-B in San Marcos to grab what we needed. I cranked up the air conditioning on the way to make sure the car was cool. I parked as to where the sun would not hit the seats in the car and cracked the windows. I told my boys that we could not take longer than 30 minutes, it was 3:30 p.m. We rushed to get groceries and checked out at exactly 4 p.m. We took the groceries back to my car and I went to start the car so the dogs could have cool air.
It was then that I noticed my dogs were gone. My boys and I panicked. I looked to make sure that nothing had been stolen out of my car, it hadn’t. That put me in more of a panic, because my dogs were the only thing missing. A nice, young couple saw that we were panicking and had seen them take our dogs. They told us about the city ordinance and where we could go to get our dogs back. I couldn’t believe that there were no signs around letting people know of this law.
A police officer was apparently circling the parking lot waiting to write the ticket and pulled up in front of my car as I was thanking the people for their help. Officer Castillo did not have many words for me besides asking for my license. He did not inform me that he was writing me a ticket or explain the law in further detail. I finished the business at hand with both of my kids asking if they were going to get their dogs back, and me still in panic and shock. I was not impressed with his personality or the way he handled the situation.
I found the yellow piece of paper with the information on where my dogs were on my windshield. I drove there and paid my $40 to get my dogs back. I still was dumbfounded at the situation. I asked a police officer there what I could have done different and he couldn’t offer me any solutions. I was going to be gone for days and didn’t want to leave my inside dogs outside in the hot weather for that many days. I chose the 30 minutes in the car, which by the way wasn’t that hot when we got into it. I couldn’t sleep for days wondering how much the ticket was going to cost and what I could have done different.
I found out the ticket was $414, which seemed outrageous for something I had no knowledge about. I paid it right away because I wanted the whole situation behind me. I should not have paid it, but I have only received two tickets in my life, when I was a teenager, and wanted to get it over with.
I called Doug Montgomery, after I paid it , to find out if I could get the ticket reduced or dismissed, but he said he couldn’t do anything since I had already paid it (thanks for being a law abiding citizen). I asked him what the city expected people to do traveling through San Marcos with their dogs if they had to run into a store. One of the animal shelter ladies said to leave one of my kids with them (in todays’ times there is no way I would leave one of my kids alone in a strange city in a running car!), but Montgomery strongly discouraged this action.
That made me mad because I don’t know what the city expects people to do or how they expect people to know about this law. I called the superior officer to Castillo and he let me know that officers can see warnings that are given to people. I wondered why the city or police department doesn’t put into place a warning system so that people like me, who want to follow the law, can at least be given a warning.
I was meeting my mother in your city to eat and shop several times a month, but now I refuse to spend money in your city, for fear of doing something else that isn’t posted in your city but is illegal. My mother also says that she will not be going to San Marcos. We will now meet in New Braunfels.
I would like my money back, but even more I would like for this not to happen to other people traveling through San Marcos. I think you need to consider your city ordinance on this situation and remember that not everyone is knowledgeable about them. I am sending this to everyone I can think of, including H.E.B., the city, and the paper. If there is anyone else that can help me with this situation please let me know.
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