Unclaimed money

San Antonio’s weirdest laws you’ve probably never heard of

In San Antonio, you technically could get in trouble for spitting in public, climbing a pecan tree, or shooting a slingshot. And don’t even think about taking a parachute to the top of the Tower of the Americas. 

Those weird prohibitions are just a taste of the odd ordinances on the books today in San Antonio — and ones from days of yore. 

READ MORE: Here’s why it’s illegal to BASE jump from the Tower of the Americas

Some of the laws that seem strange today were created for reasons that no longer hold water. In other instances, the bans are just silly. 

Party favors

Consider Silly String: The colorful spray-can party favor.

You could face a fine up to $200 if you’re caught and convicted of shooting it at any Fiesta San Antonio event. The same city ordinance covering Silly String also outlaws noisemakers at Fiesta known as “poppers,” the paper-covered balls of explosive powder that pop when they are thrown on the pavement or other hard surfaces. 

San Antonio City Council passed the ordinance in 1987 after receiving complaints about poppers and the liquid string, which “stained clothing and sun-heated surfaces of vehicles and is dangerous to the eyes of persons at Fiesta events,” the ordinance reads.   

You might also like: There are laws in San Antonio on how you can gather pecans in the city. Here’s what you need to know.


Another ordinance makes it illegal to jump from the Tower of the Americas with a parachute at any time of the year. The council created the ordinance in 1985 after several BASE jumpers parachuted from the tower

The ordinance also prohibits carrying parachutes up the elevator or the stairway at the tower. 

Windshield washing

A prohibition against people who solicit money by washing windshields for passing motorists was created in 1980 after an 11-year-old boy was struck and killed by a truck. 

Spitting in public 

Fear of disease in 1900 prompted passage of an ordinance outlawing spitting on the floors of churches, theaters, buses and other public places. 

Marriage and hotels

Some of the city’s ordinances and other prohibitions are relics of a bygone era. There once was an ordinance in San Antonio that made it illegal for two people who weren’t married “to register as husband and wife or to represent themselves in any manner to be husband and wife” at hotels, boarding houses or apartments. 

Under the old code, the owners of these places also were violators if they gave the couple lodging knowing they weren’t married. The law, created in 1918, was eventually preempted by state statutes. 

READ MORE: Everything you’ve probably ever wanted to know about tall buildings in San Antonio


Tattooing was once outlawed in San Antonio. The ordinance created in 1929 was used by city officials in the 1990s to close at least eight tattoo parlors. 

BB guns

A pair of provisions in 1922 banned the sale or gift of BB guns and those “capable of exploding or discharging any explosive cap or cartridge” to children under the age of 16. 


Another city code prohibition, dating from 1899, puts Bart Simpson as public enemy No. 1. The provision makes it illegal for anyone to throw stones or “other missiles, or to shoot with a bow and arrow, or to shoot or discharge any stone or other missile with or from a sling or from an elastic spring.” 

Pecan trees

It’s illegal to climb pecan trees (Texas’ official state tree) in any public park or street, or throw sticks or stones, for the purpose of gathering pecans. The Express-News could not find the origin of this ordinance. However, the city said recently that it’s perfectly legal to gather pecans once they’ve fallen to the ground. 


There are other ordinances that govern how you can cool off in San Antonio. 

It’s illegal to swim the San Antonio River, and other bodies of water. San Antonio banned swimming in the river in 1976 after a series of drownings, ending a popular recreational activity enjoyed by generations of locals. However, the ordinance hasn’t prevented people from trying. 


There is an ordinance that prohibits nudity in public places in the Alamo City. You’re also not allowed to be semi-nude, meaning you’re not allowed to show “human genitals, pubic region or pubic hair; or crevice of buttocks or anus; any portion of the female breast that is situated below a point immediately above the (nipple).” 

It’s also illegal to be naked in a strip club. 

Related: ‘Let strippers strip’: Online campaign reveals plan to fight San Antonio’s anti-nudity laws

In 2003, the city of San Antonio passed an ordinance that outlawed nude dancing and lap dancing and banned private VIP rooms. The city amended the so-called “human display ordinance” in 2005 after settling a lawsuit with several topless clubs that claimed the ordinance was unconstitutional. The amended ordinance essentially maintained the original, with provisions that ban nude dancing, lap dancing and small, dimly lit or locked VIP rooms.

The city also adopted a “three foot rule” that effectively bans lap dances. Tips to dancers must be placed in a jar or delivered hand-to-hand without touching and each person’s hand extended at least 1½ feet away the body.


Unclaimed animals: Any impounded animal not claimed by its owner after two days becomes the property of the city. ACS can also sell unclaimed livestock found “running free” by public auction “to the highest bidder for cash.” 

Speaking of animals, here are the animals prohibited in San Antonio: Ape or other non-human primate, wolves, coyotes, jackal and fox, crocodiles, alligators, domesticated ferrets, swine, lions, tigers and bears (oh, my!).

In case you were thinking of doing an animal sacrifice, do so on your own property. Sec. 5-5 makes it unlawful for anyone to wound or kill cattle, horses, swine, goats — wild or domestic — in any public place. 

Sec. 22-57 makes it unlawful for any person to annoy any animal or fowl belonging to the city situated at Brackenridge, Koehler Park or the zoological area contiguous thereto. You also can’t feed the animals or birds, unless you’re authorized by the San Antonio Zoological Society to do so. 

Amputation and burial

Human remains cannot be buried anywhere within the city except in cemeteries. And while you’re at it, shallow graves aren’t allowed. Graves here are required to be no less than 5 feet deep.  

Speaking of burials, you can request to be buried at one of San Antonio’s historic cemeteries. However, you must request the city’s permission and provide documentation showing your ownership or consent of ownership to one of the plots. 

READ MORE: Bury me in my Ferrari: How a California socialite was laid to rest in San Antonio

In case you lose an arm, leg or toe, the city requires that amputated limbs be cremated within 12 hours. It also must be reported to the city’s director of public health. 

Tall buildings  

Finally, San Antonio has a number of rules governing what kind of buildings can go where. Perhaps the most memorable is one that puts limitations on what can be built behind the Alamo. 

The City of San Antonio does not want to mar photos of people in front of the Alamo and historic sites with skyscrapers. Tall buildings can only be outside of that viewshed of historic landmarks. 

All the missions in San Antonio, as well as several other historic buildings in the city, have their own viewsheds. This part of the municipal code was passed in 2018, which doesn’t explain why tall buildings weren’t built behind the Alamo before then. The one tall building behind the Alamo is the Crockett Hotel. The hotel was built in 1909, long before the viewshed protection took effect. 

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