When San Antonio resident Edith Melendez, via ViralHog.com, recently saw a suspicious vehicle pull up outside on her street, she just had a bad feeling about it. The local realtor said her neighborhood has a lot of boarded up houses due to a new development being built and she often sees people dumping old furniture out there or even doing drugs. But this time, she witnessed something worse — a car full of people dumping dogs.
It wasn’t a new sight, either. “A lot of people dump dogs there,” Melendez, an animal advocate, tells PEOPLE. “It was the first time where I had enough time to catch it on video. I’m just tired of it.”
“I put on my shoes and walked out to the dead end,” Melendez explains. She also brought her phone and filmed the incident, believing it was a way to show her neighbors and townsfolk “how not to dump animals and to do the right thing” instead.
Melendez says that a gray car pulled up to a dead end street, and a woman started pulling dogs out of the vehicle. In the video, four dogs are seen being dumped on the side of the road. (As it turns out, five were actually left there — one dog was already dumped and ran off prior to Melendez’s camera catching the woman in action.)
Melendez confronts the woman, who appears to mostly ignore her and continues to dump the dogs. The driver of the car then “panics and retreats,” she says. The Good Samaritan then decided to post the video footage on Facebook, where it has since gone viral.
Because of all the attention the video received, the driver of the car and the woman in the clip were uncovered. Internet sleuths were able to discern the car’s license plate number and track down the dog dumpers. Melendez says at this point, the actual owner of the dogs — a different woman — came forward to take responsibility, allegedly because she felt badly her friends — or family, as the case may be — were being threatened. (It is unknown whether she felt bad about dumping the dogs.)
According to San Antonio Animal Care Services rep Lisa Norwood, the people in the car were the sister, brother and sister’s boyfriend. “They were asked by the owner of the dogs to dump the animals and they did so while being filmed by a Good Samaritan who sent the video to San Antonio’s Animal Care Services Friday afternoon,” Norwood tells PEOPLE.
“We were able to send officers to the scene who were able to get three of the dogs very quickly — they were incredibly sweet and eager to be with people. The owner then brought in a fourth dog after she went to [the] scene after turning herself in following the social media storm. Another citizen found a fifth dog,” said Norwood.
Currently, three of the dogs are with local Animal Care Services until the investigation closes. The fourth dog was found by the owner, according to Melendez, who surrendered it properly this time and could face fines of $300 per each abandoned dog.
“Judges set fees for citations,” says Norwood. “So, the fines would potentially be $300 per dog for the violation of law once the charges are issued, that would be in addition to the shelter fees for surrendering the animals since we now have to take on the responsibility of their care.”
The fifth dog was found injured Tuesday night by another local person, although the citizen has not yet turned the dog in. However, the good news, says Norwood, is that two of the dogs have already been adopted and the other three are headed to a rescue.
“Dumping animals is not only wrong, it is illegal,” Norwood tells PEOPLE. “Dogs deserve better and San Antonio’s Animal Care Services is moving forward with cruelty charges against the parties involved.”
A volunteer foster pet parent and dog mom herself, Melendez says she feels the need to teach people about pet awareness and behavioral issues. Her personal motto is “train the human and the dog.” And as a realtor, she’s even seen pets that have been abandoned in vacated homes.
Melendez hopes the video she filmed will inspire the city of San Antonio to “do something,” as well as inspire local people to donate towards animal rescue or volunteer these services themselves. Her biggest wish, she says, is for San Antonio to become a no-kill city one day.