Animal cruelty suspect wants search of U-Haul with dead dogs inside tossed

A 36-year-old McAllen woman facing charges of animal cruelty says in a motion to suppress that Pharr police lacked probable cause to search the back of a U-Haul truck, where authorities found 33 dead dogs in May 2018.

“Defendant respectfully submits that if the State wishes to justify the sudden and warrantless stop of Defendant’s vehicle with some probable cause, the state should have first sought a search or arrest warrant, as in most civil societies,” a court document stated. “They do not argue any emergency factors, only that a number of dogs were being transported across town for safe-keeping.”

Pharr police arrested Christina Arriaga on May 8, 2018, after a police officer found the dead dogs in the U-Haul cargo area. She is charged with two counts of cruelty to animals and has entered not guilty pleas to the charges.

A hearing on the motion to suppress is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon.

The motion to suppress alleges Pharr police stopped Arriaga, who was driving a U-Haul, without probable cause and ordered her to open the vehicle where the responding officer found dying animals.

A probable cause affidavit states that the officer could smell a strong odor before even opening the truck’s door. That document further states that Arriaga told police “she and her husband came up with the plan to rent the U-Haul truck, and place the canines inside of the box truck and drive them around until the City of Pharr Animal Control left their apartment.”

The motion to suppress alleges that the traffic stop, search and seizure were unconstitutional and illegal.

Prosecutors, however, fired back in a response to the motion to suppress, saying that Arriaga was not pulled over but was parked in a parking lot when the responding officer approached and smelled a strong odor of canine and asked that the truck be opened.

Pharr Animal Control Supervisor Frank Villarreal previously told the newspaper that the agency was in the process of obtaining a search warrant over allegations Arriaga was breeding dogs inside her apartment.

In February, the prosecutors rescinded all plea offers, including pre-trial diversion and probation.