San Antonio’s Animal Care Services department is reporting a huge increase in the number of animal cruelty cases filed in the courts, according to the results of a KSAT 12 Defenders investigation.
Some 29 cruelty cases were filed in fiscal year 2012. That number jumped to 113 in the last fiscal year.
The budget for cruelty investigations and other field activities has also risen, from $2.6 million in 2011 to $3.3 million in the 2014 fiscal year.
A day in the life of ACS cruelty investigators has them making calls, looking at photos and checking on cases. Then they hit the streets.
On one day, investigator Joel Skidmore and his partner started their field activities by following up on an earlier report of three dogs kept in a wire cage with feces. They found the dogs in new accommodations.
"All the dogs were in good condition,” Skidmore said. “The owner took the correct steps and corrected the violation. So, success. Exactly what we wanted."
Their next call: a complaint about too many skinny dogs at a home on the Northwest Side.
"I've counted six so far that we can see,” Skidmore said, as he walked around the property.
He found the dogs in decent shape but said there were two more than the law allowed.
“We walked the length of the property and we counted a total of seven dogs,” Skidmore said. “So the city ordinance only allows five without having the excess animal permit.”
He and his partner left a notice for the owner. "If we don't get a response, we're going to follow up,” Skidmore said. “Our last resort is to take the animals from people."
Two other cases that afternoon had investigators looking into a complaint about a dog outside with no shelter and a follow-up to a previous complaint.
"We wanted to come out here and get eyes on the dogs ourselves and make sure that you're taking the proper steps," Skidmore told the dogs’ owner at a house on the West Side.
On that day, no cruelty was found, but Skidmore said they do see it. "Sometimes you see the worst of the worst."
Prosecution on cruelty charges can result in anything from fines to jail time. One recent case is going to court on Tuesday.
Cruelty investigator Audra Houghton recently found dead chickens at a home on the near Northwest Side, along with severely malnourished chickens and a mistreated dog.
“Unfortunately what we're seeing here is some pretty severe overcrowding circumstances with these birds,” Houghton said on the scene. “They're all very, very emaciated. There's really no muscle left on their chest or their legs.”
Investigators hope to get the word out to people who own animals that cruelty cases are being vigorously prosecuted in San Antonio and that jail time could result.
The owner of the chickens surrendered them to ACS but could still be prosecuted for animal cruelty. To report suspected animal cruelty in San Antonio, call 311.