Fort Worth woman settles lawsuit to save dogs

Posted Tuesday, Nov. 06, 2012  comments  Print Reprints

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FORT WORTH -- A dog cannot get a fair trial in Fort Worth, according to two women who have had their pit bulls declared dangerous by a Fort Worth municipal court.

Rana Soluri said the perception that her two pit bulls were doomed unless she took a different stance factored into her decision to settle her lawsuit with the Fort Worth animal control department on Tuesday.

"I don't know what innocent until proven guilty means anymore," Soluri said. "It's not an ego thing. It's just that my dogs were wrongly accused and now I can't fight for them. I've been strong-armed into making this agreement."

The agreement calls for Soluri to pay about $2,700 in boarding costs and veterinarian charges and comply with seven conditions set forward by a municipal court judge before her two pit bulls can be released. The two dogs, named Lilo and Stitch, are being held at a veterinarian's office with a municipal judge's order to destroy them.

Soluri has 15 days to show compliance with the municipal court's Sept. 27 order. Once Soluri can show animal control officers that she is in compliance, a joint motion asking the judge to set aside the order destroying the dogs will be filed with the court.

"We're happy to have a resolution in this case," said Gerald Pruitt, deputy city attorney.

Soluri sued the city because she maintains that her dogs were taken, under a municipal judge's order, without due process.

In a sworn affidavit, Lesley K. Miller, Soluri's next door neighbor, said Soluri's two dogs broke through her backyard fence and chased her and her 6-month-old German Shepherd puppy to the back door of her home.

Soluri and her attorney challenged Miller's account and said state law leaves no avenue to appeal decisions made in dangerous dog cases. Miller could not be reached for this story.

The case landed in State District Judge Melody Wilkinson's court on Monday. Although Wilkinson's court hears civil matters, prosecutors maintained she did not have jurisdiction in the case.

"This court is not a court of appeals," Harvey Frye, assistant city attorney, argued Monday.

Aimee Norwood, who was called on Monday to testify on Soluri's behalf, said her pit bull has also been declared a dangerous dog by Fort Worth city officials. Norwood said her four dogs got out of her yard and approached a couple who were walking their dog in February 2010 and became involved in a scuffle. Norwood's pit bull, Pluto, was singled out for the dangerous dog designation, Norwood said.

Once a dog has been declared dangerous, there is nothing the owner can do to get the designation changed, Norwood said. Norwood also said she was unable to plead her dog's case during a hearing. It cost her family more that $7,000 to come into compliance with the municipal judge's order, Norwood testified.

"I wanted to appeal our decision," Norwood said after recess on Monday. "We felt the trial was unfair and we were unable to present our side. But my attorney said that although you can appeal there are no courts that will hear your case."

The settlement agreement ended all the jurisdictional wrangling in the Soluri case.

"I'm really disappointed about not being able to go forward," said Soluri's attorney, Christiana Dijkman. "I think there was a constitutional violation here."

Mitch Mitchell, 817-390-7752

Twitter: @mitchmitchel3

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