Judge bars Fort Worth from euthanizing two seized pit bills

Posted Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2012  comments  Print Reprints

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A state district judge issued a restraining order this week preventing the city of Fort Worth from euthanizing two pit bulls that the owners say have been incorrectly designated as dangerous animals.

State District Judge Melody Wilkinson on Tuesday also ordered that the dogs -- Lilo and Stitch -- be transferred to a private veterinarian after concerns were raised by their owners, Thomas and Rana Soluri, about their deteriorating health.

But the couple were denied access to their pets, said Christiana Dijkman, an attorney representing Lexus Project Inc., an animal rights group based in New York.

"We had a hearing yesterday in district court and requested that the dogs be moved to a private vet facility so Rana and her family can see the dogs, and because the city said the dogs were sick," Dijkman said.

Wilkinson's rulings stem from a lawsuit filed by the Lexus Project, which contends that the city's dangerous dog ordinance is unconstitutional and that the city is unfairly denying the couple access to their pets.

The dogs were seized in September after they broke through the fence separating the Soluris' back yard from their neighbor's in the Villages of Woodland Springs subdivision near Alliance Airport.

The couple said that a family friend forgot to put them inside the house.

The neighbor, Leslie Miller, said the dogs charged at her and her 6-month-old puppy in her back yard.

Miller called animal control and the dogs were seized. They were declared dangerous by the city, although the Soluris said they have never bitten or attacked anyone.

As it stands, if the dogs are eventually released to the Soluris, the family must comply with such orders as paying a fee to the city, carrying a specific insurance policy, posting warning signs and making sure the dogs are in a sturdy enclosure or on a leash.

Right now, the family just wants to see the dogs, Rana Soluri said.

"I miss them so much," she said. "My [10-year-old] daughter is missing Lilo, too. Lilo is her best friend. She's missing her so bad."

Wilkinson ordered that the dogs be moved to a private veterinarian, but chose one that the city picked, Dijkman said.

"When Rana called the vet asking to see the dogs, she was told that the city had ordered that she couldn't," the attorney said.

The city doesn't make provisions for visitations, Deputy City Attorney Gerald Pruitt said.

"We didn't work anything out," he said. "The court ordered us not to euthanize the dogs until after an injunction hearing on the 29th."

Despite a city policy mandating that a dangerous dog be kept locked away for the protection of staff and others, Brandon Bennett, director of code compliance, said an exception could be made.

"This case is a little unique in that it has this court order," he said. "I wish the court had built in visitation, but it didn't.

"I have spoken with Ms. Soluri and told her I will schedule a day and time that she can visit the dogs and make sure they're doing well."

This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.

Terry Evans, (817) 390-7620

Twitter: @fwstevans

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