Animal Care Services warns to think twice before taking in a stray

One woman who helped a stray is hoping others will learn from her experience in the month that followed.

SAN ANTONIO – San Antonio Animal Care Services is offering insight into what could happen if you take in a stray.

What started as a good deed for one woman led to several bills.

Tiffany Qualin is an animal lover, even jumping up during her interview with KSAT to help the neighbor’s puppy after it got out of its yard.

But after helping a stray last month, Qualin is vowing no more.

“I will no longer help another animal. And that’s really unfortunate, is breaking my heart,” Qualin said.

In November, a stray dog, now named Emmet, showed up at Qualin’s property in bad shape. She spent $1,100 in the week she cared for the animal before calling San Antonio Animal Care Services to pick him up.

Her good deed came with some unforeseen consequences.

“You’re the primary caregiver for that animal, and you’ve taken that animal into your home. You know, there’s some definite obligations by state law,” said Shannon Sims, the director of Animal Care Services.

Sims said Qualin’s act of kindness toward the dog made her the animal’s legal owner.

“It comes with a huge commitment,” Sims said.

That commitment was further solidified when Qualin picked up Emmet again from ACS to try and rehome him herself. She was met with a “reclaim to owner” fee of $131 broken down into impound, boarding, vaccination and microchipping fees.

“I’m being punished for a good deed because after I got home, my nephew took him that day and saw the dog nevermore,” Qualin explained.

A month later, a $300 citation from ACS for not getting Emmet neutered, something she says she unknowingly agreed to do when she signed a conditional release form.

Sims said it’s just a part of the process.

“She reclaimed that animal. She took that responsibility and was actually given a notice that you need to get this animal fixed within 30 days,” Sims said.

While Sims is sympathetic to Qualin’s plight, he hopes it makes people more cautious before opening their homes to strays that are not under their care.

“The last thing I want to hear is somebody with the best intentions in their mind getting into a bad situation,” Sims said.

If you have a stray hanging around your home, Sims recommends calling 311 and not allowing the animal into your home. ACS will pick it up, so you won’t have any legal responsibility to the animal.

About the Authors

Leigh Waldman is an investigative reporter at KSAT 12. She joined the station in 2021. Leigh comes to San Antonio from the Midwest after spending time at a station in Omaha, NE. After two winters there, she knew it was time to come home to Texas. When Leigh is not at work, she enjoys eating, playing with her dogs and spending time with family.

Gavin Nesbitt is a photojournalist and video editor who joined KSAT in September 2021. He has traveled across the great state of Texas to film, conduct interviews and edit many major news stories, including the White Settlement church shooting, Hurricane Hanna, 2020 presidential campaigns, Texas border coverage and the Spurs.

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