Scott Gordon, NBC 5 News
A Fort Worth woman has filed suit in Tarrant County, saying the city's dog ordinance allows owners to appeal orders to seize animals although there is no appeals court to hear such cases.
A Fort Worth woman is challenging a city law in an unusual and emotionally charged court case that pits the city's right to seize dangerous dogs against an animal owner's right to appeal.
Rana Soluri's two pit bulls, Lilo and Stitch, were seized last month after a neighbor complained they had escaped their yard and threatened her.
A municipal judge ordered the dogs seized and euthanized -- after Soluri refused to comply with a list of restrictions.
Soluri claims she and her neighbor have had a long feud, in part over Soluri's Muslim religion.
Soluri filed suit in Tarrant County District Court, claiming the city's ordinance allows dog owners to appeal an order to seize animals -- but there is no appeals court to hear such cases.
The city acted after the neighbor signed a sworn statement saying the dogs were menacing.
"It could be anybody's dog," Soluri said. "Somebody could file an affidavit who didn't like you any way, shape or form. Guess what? They come take your dog and euthanize it."
Fort Worth officials say they would return the dogs if Soluri agreed to a list of restrictions, such as keeping them inside and using a leash and a muzzle in public. Soluri denies the dogs are vicious.
City attorneys acknowledge that dog owners have nowhere to appeal seizures but defend the law and the municipal judge's decision.
"We defend the process, but we'd like to see resolution to this -- and a good resolution," Assistant City Attorney Gerald Pruitt said.
Pruitt said while the city ordinance gives dog owners the right to appeal the city's decision, the Texas Legislature never established an appeals court to hear such cases.
Soluri said she's now caught in the middle.
If she agrees to the restrictions, she can get her dogs back. But then she would give up any right to challenge the process, because the case would be considered closed.
"What they're trying to say is, 'Drop your case, don't go after your constitutional rights; you might be able to save your dogs,'" she said. "Guess what? We're holding your dogs. [It's] your choice."
The hearing before Judge Melody Wilkinson is set to resume Tuesday morning.
The city will carry out the municipal judge's order to euthanize the dogs but not as long as the hearing in Tarrant County continues.