Canine owners who visited Hardberger Park during what’s billed as the city’s first pet town hall had a chance to learn about new animal laws, how to spot abuse and where to find resources.
District 8 Councilman Manny Pelaez and his staff organized the forum on Oct. 6 for residents to ask questions, share tips and get educated regarding pet ownership, strays and animal control.
A small crowd gathered for a brief presentation by Pelaez and Cynthia Martinez, operations manager for the city’s Animal Care Services.
Pelaez brought his Shih Tzu, Millie, to the event. Since his election to the council in 2017, Pelaez has helped increase awareness of animal-welfare issues.
“It’s to remind everybody that community is not a noun, but a verb,” Pelaez said.
Getting people to look out for animals in distress, and be on the watch for animal abuse, remains important, said the councilman, who’s an attorney. Pets are often threatened or even harmed when their human partners are embroiled in domestic violence, he added.
Police and ACS officers have been trained to look for signs of pets being involved in family violence, and how best to approach those cases, Pelaez said.
“Oftentimes, an animal-negligence case results in prosecution of somebody perpetrating very serious domestic violence against their loved ones,” he added.
Family Violence Prevention Services Inc., an advocacy agency, is able to help victims of domestic disputes and their pets. Call 210-733-8810 for more information.
Other resources can be found at safeplaceforpets.org.
Pelaez urged people to keep an eye out for elderly pet owners in their neighborhoods. Many seniors who live alone and on a fixed income could be lacking the food and resources to properly care for their pets.
The nonprofit Meals on Wheels has AniMeals, which provides monthly deliveries of pet food to clients who find themselves sharing their own food with furry companions.
Volunteers deliver the pet meals every third weekend of the month.
“That’s another great way for us to interact with seniors who may be lonely, and make sure they’re healthy and their pets are healthy,” Pelaez added.
He addressed a new law, adopted by the City Council in August, that requires pet owners to give their animals shade, including trees, canopies, umbrellas or patios.
In the fall of 2017, San Antonio revised other parts of its animal ordinance, including prohibiting the use of chains to tether dogs. The law bans leaving dogs tied up when outside and requires they have food, water and proper shelter.
Marybeth Osgood, a Helotes-area resident, told Pelaez about a dog she spotted bound to a tree in a neighbor’s yard. The dog, Osgood said, was at first tied by a chain, and then by a rope, but the pet was given food and water outside.
Osgood said this went on for years until one day, she was walking by the neighbor’s house and noticed the dog was missing. The neighbor told her the animal had died in the yard.
“I said, ‘Thank God … thank God because he’s out of hell,’” Osgood responded to the neighbor.
Local laws limit the scope of ACS enforcement, Martinez said.
“Because the state of Texas is a state that considers animals property, we can only regulate to a certain degree,” she added.
Martinez said local officials have worked with animal welfare groups to implement new laws or improve existing ones during the last several years.
She suggested that attendees contact their elected representative to stress how important it is to have strong laws protecting domesticated animals.
“I know it seems like a small change,” Martinez said about the ban on chains for dogs. “But I will see a 5-pound Chihuahua with a 20-pound chain around its neck.”
She continued: “The shade ordinance … does not seem like it’s a big thing to people who are responsible and able to give that to their pets every day, but there are members of our community who do not understand the importance of it.”
Martinez said responsible pet ownership education is important for everyone.
“We realize we’re not going to be able to see drastic change unless we all come together and educate our neighbors,” she added.