Editor’s note: A previous version of this article said that it was illegal to keep your pets inside of your car unattended at any point. It has been since clarified that amended versions of this ordinance makes it clear that an animal must be in danger in order to qualify for a citation. See the complete ordinance below for full comprehensive study of the ruling passed.
ROUND ROCK (KXAN) — A new ordinance in Round Rock has good intentions for pets, but not necessarily for your wallet. This new law has sparked conversation about what constitutes animal abuse.
“On a hot day, windows rolled up, sunny, then it becomes a dangerous situation. So our animal control officers will know what’s a dangerous situation or not, so they can use discretion on that,” said Sara Bustilloz, a spokesperson for the City of Round Rock.
As empty cars line the streets of Round Rock, you can almost be sure, there are no animals looking out the windows waiting for their owner to return.
“Everything in this ordinance is for the safety and well-being of pets in the city of Round Rock,” Bustilloz said.
That’s thanks to a new ordinance, approved unanimously on Thursday by the city council.
“If officers got a call, it was always a really hard call if they had the authority to go ahead and get that animal out of danger,” Bustilloz said.
Now in Round Rock, microchipping is required for your pets, no metal chains are allowed as leashes and a new set of rules are established for beekeepers, among other rules.
But the big talker is the fine you could receive if you leave your animal in the car without anyone.
“It is kind of easy to forget the animal in the car. I mean, it happens with kids sometimes, unfortunately,” said Tyler Weldon, who lives in Round Rock.
“Even though they are trying to do things for the better, I think the focus needs to be on protecting humans first,” said Kelly Schernik, who lives in Round Rock.
If you get caught, you could get slapped with a fine up to $192, a punishment many say fits the crime.
“As a society, if we say we are going to keep pets, then we have a responsibility to take the best care of them we can. We don’t just want to say it’s okay to mistreat animals. I think that’s cruel,” Weldon said.
The city council wants to make it clear, if an officer discovers an animal in a car unattended, they won’t give a citation right away. Their first priority is to find the owner.
But if no owner is in sight, they’ll do whatever it takes to make sure that animal is safe.
Similar Ordinance in Austin
The City of Austin has a similar ordinance, but it’s not as strict. You can’t leave a dog in your car if the animal’s health is in danger because of the heat, the cold or a lack of ventilation. But otherwise, you aren’t breaking the rules.
The ordinance also allows police and animal control officers to break into a car if it appears an animal is in danger.
An approved city ordinance will provide a sweeping overhaul for animal safety in Round Rock, including a punishable fine for those that leave their pets in the car for any period of time.
Sara Bustilloz, the assistant director of communications and marketing for the city, says leaving your animal in a vehicle will be a municipal court citation with a fine punishable up to $500.
The ordinance was created so that officers can have discretion on the scene, and law enforcement will use the circumstances of the situation to make a decision, including breaking into that vehicle to save the animal.
In addition, any animal kept in the flatbed of a truck must be crated.
Other animal safety precautions included in the ordinance include microchipping of pets, beekeeping, a feral cat ordinance and a ban of the use of metal chains for tying and staking animals.