An animal ordinance that regulates the sale of cats and dogs in retail settings, provides requirements for spay and neutering services and limits length of animal stays in the city's regional animal shelter is now in place after more than a year of uncertainty. The new ordinance falls within the city of San Marcos' city code pertaining to animals.

Most recently, the San Marcos City Council discussed the animal ordinance Nov. 15 and passed its first reading; the second reading was meant to return in January but stalled, pending input from the city's animal services committee. Prior to action in late 2022, the council tabled the ordinance in February 2022, as previously reported by Community Impact.

The second reading was approved March 7, and the ordinance states shops that participate in the retail sale of animals may only sell animals that have been obtained from a city or county shelter, an animal control agency, or an animal welfare organization licensed by the city of San Marcos. The ordinance will go into effect March 21 to allow shops ample time to comply with the requirements.

However, the majority of the discussion at the meeting dealt with overall city code about animals—specifically, the trap-neuter-return policy.

Under the animal chapter of the city code, animals found and turned into the shelter are held for a certain number of days.

“The original ordinance—or as it is now until it gets revised—is any animal with any means of traceable identification, whether it's a microchip with information, a tag, anything like that, ... we keep them for a minimum of five days before we decide if they're suitable for adoption, surgery, whatever the case is,” said DerryAnn Krupinsky, San Marcos assistant director of neighborhood enhancement. “Without identification, it's three days. What we were proposing to do was eliminate stray hold for any cat unless it had some form of identification.”

Some council members had issues with this proposal as they believed three days is not enough time.

“I’m just concerned somebody’s going to leave for a weekend, be gone two days, and then realize their cat is gone or animal is gone,” Council Member Mark Gleason said. “It takes them a day to realize, ‘Maybe I should go to the shelter,’ and that animal is not there anymore; 72 hours is not very much time if you have an animal missing.”

Krupinsky said ultimately, the first day an animal is turned in is day zero; the 72 hours do not begin until the following day. As the shelter continues to struggle with overcrowding, the longer true feral or community cats are kept in it, and the more they suffer.

The council also voted to allow neutering and spaying services after the second time an animal is captured, which was changed from the third.