This is how a simple traffic stop turns to tragedy.
If you’re a dog lover, this story will make your blood boil and will break your heart. In fact, you merely need to be a decent human being to be outraged.
According to Houston, Texas, resident Josie Garcia, her husband and a friend were out in their truck on Sunday, July 13, when the police pulled them over for failing to use a turn signal. With the men in the truck was the Garcia family dog, little Guero.
Guero, a 14-year-old white Chihuahua, suffered from cataracts and was nearly blind. He always accompanied Garcia when he tooled around town.
Upon conducting a search of the truck, the officer reportedly found a controlled substance belonging to the man riding with Garcia. He took both men into custody and arranged a tow truck to move the vehicle. What he reportedly did not do was make any arrangements for taking care of the dog.
“My husband pleaded with the officer to let him call someone to come get Guero, and asked him to call [the Bureau of Animal Regulation and Care (BARC)], but he said it wasn’t his problem, that the dog would be fine,” Garcia told KTRK.
Just like that, Garcia was hauled away in a police car, forced to watch as the cop and the tow truck abandoned his little blind dog by a busy road. To see a Houston TV news report that includes video showing the location where Guero was left, click here.
As it turns out, the scene of this arrest was literally two blocks away from the BARC facility. Getting animal control to the scene or dropping the dog off at BARC would have been easy and quick. Despite this, the police officer apparently did nothing and left Guero to fend for himself.
Imagine the poor dog’s confusion at this moment. His human, obviously distressed, is driven away by a stranger in a car while the familiar family truck is towed away – and then everyone is just gone. There Guero must have sat, alone by the road, listening to the roar of traffic, paralyzed with fear, wondering when someone was coming back for him.
The Search for Guero Ends in Heartbreak
When Garcia finally reached his wife, Josie, that Sunday, she began peppering the area with “lost dog” fliers. Here’s one captured by a Twitter user. We’ve redacted the Garcias’ phone number for privacy purposes:
From Sunday to Tuesday, there was no news. On Tuesday, a caller told Josie Garcia that he’d seen Guero walking on a traffic ramp and had tried to grab him. Unfortunately, rush hour traffic prevented him from successfully rescuing the dog. Josie rushed to the location, only to find her dog’s dead body on the shoulder of the highway about a half mile from where he’d been left.
Guero had been struck and killed by a car. Josie wrapped his tiny, crumpled body in a towel and took him home to bury him.
“I felt so much pain like I never knew I had,” Josie Garcia told KTRK.
Officials dropped all charges against Garcia, by the way. In the end, he did nothing wrong except fail to use that turn signal, but now his beloved dog is dead.
An Apology From Houston‘s Mayor is Not Enough
Devastated, Josie Garcia appeared before the Houston City Council on July 22. She spent her allotted three minutes telling her story. You can watch video of her statement and the reaction of the mayor and council members at this link. Fast forward through the public comment session to 105:32.
“Let me give you a public apology right now on behalf of the city of Houston,” Mayor Annise Parker immediately responded. “I don’t know what airhead — there’s another word in my mind but I’m not going to say it — would throw, you wouldn’t put a kid on the side of the road. You shouldn’t put someone’s pet on the side of the road.”
Reportedly, the mayor and city council members now are wondering whether Houston has a clear policy regarding the proper handling of pets involved in law enforcement situations. If they don’t have such a policy, they clearly need one.
The Garcias have filed a complaint with the Houston Police Department (HPD). HPD says its internal investigation into this incident may take up to six months to resolve. Whoa – stop the clock. Six months?
Craig Malisow of the Houston Press took the city to task in a blog post on July 29, 2014. Excerpts from that post hit the nail on the head:
We can understand why a complex case with multiple witnesses with conflicting stories might be a real quagmire of a case, but, really, to say it could take 180 days to determine whether an “airhead” (to quote Mayor Parker during the public input session) left a freaking dog on the side of the road is a bit of a stretch.
We don’t understand why a complaint as odd as this is allowed to remain unresolved for more than 72 hours. Either Garcia is withholding part of the story, or just fabricating it outright, or this police officer acted irresponsibly. Call us selfish, but we think the public — if not Garcia and her husband — deserves a timely answer.
Forcing someone to abandon a helpless pet by the road is inexcusable conduct. That a law enforcement official is reportedly to blame for making Garcia do such a heartbreaking thing is outrageous.
If you agree, please sign this petition. Care2 will ensure it gets to Mayor Parker as well as Houston’s Chief of Police and its City Council. It asks them to ensure there’s an appropriate disciplinary outcome to this investigation, and to ensure there is a mandatory protocol for handling a situation like this so it never happens again.
Poor little Guero. We’re sorry, buddy. You didn’t deserve this.
Photo credit (main image): Thinkstock