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San Antonio Takes Animal Laws to New Level

By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on February 23, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Every Friday morning at the San Antonio Municipal Courthouse in Texas, Judge Daniel Guerrero takes on the dogs -- and their owners. He's even met a cat or two.

This weekly exercise is part of the city's plan to crackdown on pet owners breaking the law. Guerrero's animal court is designed to deal with dog bites, stray animals and owners who don't register or vaccinate their pets. Violators face hundreds of dollars in fines.

San Antonio's animal court is part of a larger trend, explains the Wall Street Journal. Local judicial systems are starting to create specialized courts so that judges can develop a deeper understanding of discrete areas of the law. Some judges deal specifically with drug crimes, while others handle only landlord-tenant disputes.

Officials in San Antonio feel animal-related incidents need similar care. Dogs bite more than 3,000 residents every year, reports the Wall Street Journal. City estimates also put the number of stray dogs at 150,000 on any given day. Pets have become a huge public health and safety problem.

Animal court, officials hope, will "encourage a culture of responsibility when it comes to pet ownership."

Some residents are upset, and think the animal court is a waste of time and money. As long as they care for their pets, they should be left alone. While this may be true, San Antonio's animal court is there to enforce the law. If residents vaccinate, register and leash their pets, it's unlikely they'll ever have to meet Judge Guerrero or pay a fine.

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