Every Friday a courtroom in San Antonio’s municipal courthouse is turned into a “kennel of jurisprudence,” according to the Wall Street Journal‘s Nathan Koppel, who wrote about San Antonio’s puppy court, which hears cases relating to strays, dog bites, and unregistered animals.
“Municipal Court Judge Daniel Guerrero carefully considers alleged crimes involving canines of all sort—Labradors, Chihuahuas, Shih Tzus—and even the occasional cat, whose owners must appear in court to defend charges that carry fines ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars,” Koppel wrote.
While the animal court is unique, the idea of dedicating a court to handle a distinct problem is a growing movement across the country. As Koppel, an Austin-based correspondent for the WSJ, writes:
[T]he 10-month-old court is part of a larger trend in which cities are forming specialized tribunals to deal with distinct populations, such as drug addicts or the mentally ill. The goal is to allow judges to develop a deeper understanding of certain kinds of offenses, and better fashion appropriate punishments for those who commit them.
The court has raked in some $250,000 in fines for the city, leading critics to claim the city is only trying to make money by prosecuting “picayune offenses.”