Pharr woman arrested after 33 dead dogs found in U-Haul

PHARR — A traffic stop on a U-Haul truck last week resulted in a gruesome discovery: 33 dead dogs inside the truck’s cargo area.

The May 8 discovery was made after Pharr police received a call from a witness who reported seeing Christina Arriaga, 36, loading puppies into the U-Haul’s cargo area.

Even before the police officer opened the truck’s door, he could smell “a strong odor coming from the vehicle,” the probable cause affidavit tied to Arriaga’s May 8 arrest noted.

She was arraigned on one count of cruelty to non-livestock animals, a Class A misdemeanor, and released from jail May 9 on a $30,000 cash bond.

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,” according to the affidavit.

Of the 33 dogs, at least five had been dead for some time, said Pharr Animal Control Supervisor Frank Villarreal, while the others likely died from the lack of ventilation and extreme heat inside the cargo area. Only one dog found inside the truck survived.

“When a dog dies within three to five hours, they don’t smell, but when you have a decomposed dog for a week, that smells,” Villarreal said.

Animal control had a May 8 appointment to inspect the couple’s unit at VIP Estates Apartments after receiving complaints about the odor, Villarreal said. He had previously visited the apartment in the days before Arriaga’s arrest but was unable to get in touch with either her or her husband.

Animal control was in the process of getting a search warrant for the unit, he said, adding he suspects the couple could have been breeding the dogs inside the apartment. The 33 dead dogs ranged in age he said, noting that it’s likely many of them were inbred.