Texas

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Titlesort ascending Summary
Landry’s, Inc. v. Animal Legal Defense Fund This is an appeal of a dismissal of appellant Landry's claims under the Texas Citizens Participation Act (“the TCPA”) and the subsequent required awarding of attorney fees and sanction under Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. § 27.009. Landry's is a large corporation that owns and operates more than 500 entertainment properties across the country, including the Houston Aquarium, Inc. The aquarium houses four white tigers in an human-made enclosure known as "Maharaja's Temple." Appellees, including the Animal Legal Defense Fund and its attorneys as well as a radio station owner (Cheryl Conley), asserted a variety of claims in connection with the publication of the notice to intend to sue under the Endangered Species Act due to the care and housing of the tigers. As a result of that notice and the associated publicity, Landry's asserted claims in the trial court for defamation, business disparagement, tortious interference with prospective business relations, abuse of process, trespass, conspiracy to commit each of these torts, and conspiracy to commit theft. Conley and ALDF moved to dismiss the claims under the TCPA, arguing that the claims related to exercise of free speech, petition, and association, and that Landry's could not make out a prima facie case. Additionally, they also argued that the claims were barred by the judicial-proceedings privilege. The lower court agreed and granted Conley's motion to dismiss. It also awarded $250,000 to ALDF and $200,000 to Conley. On appeal here, Landry again points to the allegedly defamatory statements released on social media (Twitter and Facebook) and through news media regarding the tigers' care. The court noted that many of the statements were non-actionable because they were not shown to be false statements of fact or were opinions. Nonetheless, even on those statements where Landry's met their burden of proving a defamation claim, the statements were protected by the judicial-proceedings privilege. The court was not convinced by Landry's contention that the statements were not made in contemplation of litigation because they were made after the required federal notice for filing suit under the ESA. Additionally, the court also rejected Landry's claim that the ALDF cannot claim attorney immunity because it is not a law firm and instead is comprised of attorneys who hold law licenses. The court observed that law licenses are not issued to business entities, but to individuals. The court also rejected Landry's remaining causes of action. As to the attorneys' fee and sanctions, the court did modify the attorneys' fees because one attorney at the trial court level did not participate in the appeal. Landry's then argued that the $450,000 in sanctions was excessive. The court first noted the TCPA mandates an award of sanctions and attorneys' fees. In reviewing the award for abuse of discretion, this court reviewed arguments by ALDF concerning Landry's hiring of the third largest law firm to defend a relatively small initial action, the filing of a 157-page response, with Landry's unwillingness to concede any points. The court took that in addition to several factors under the TCPA. The court was particularly concerned with Landry's filing of this suit on day 59 of the 60-day notice to file suit under the ESA (which may have been an indication to preempt the federal suit, according to the court). Despite that and more, the court did conclude that sanctions that were 2.4 and 2.8 times the attorneys' fees awards were excessive. The court suggested a remittitur, which would bring those awards respectively to $103,191.26 and $71,295.00. Thus, the lower court's decision to dismiss Landry's claims was affirmed, but the awards for attorneys' fee and sanctions were modified.
Justice v. State In this Texas appeal, defendant Brent Justice contends that his conviction for a single count of cruelty to a nonlivestock animal was based on insufficient evidence. The incident stemmed from defendant's filming of his co-defendant, Ashley Richards, torturing and killing of a newly-weaned puppy. Justice and Richards ran an escort business named "Bad Gurls Entertainment" that focused on the production and distribution of animal "crush" videos (fetish videos involving the stomping, torturing, and killing of various kinds of animals in a prolonged manner). The evidence that supported the conviction involved the confessions of both perpetrators and the video of the puppy being tortured and ultimately killed. On appeal, defendant argues that he cannot be found guilty since was not the principal involved in the offense. This court was unconvinced, finding that the evidence was sufficient to support a state jail felony since "[t]here is no shortage of evidence that appellant aided Richards in her cruelty," including handing Richards the knife and filming the killing. The one issue in defendant's "hybrid" pro se and represented brief on appeal that the court granted was related to a finding that defendant used a "deadly weapon." After the filing of initial briefs, the Court of Criminal Appeals in Prichard v. State, No. PD-0712-16, --- S.W.3d ---, 2017 WL 2791524 (Tex. Crim. App. June 28, 2017), held that “a deadly weapon finding is disallowed when the recipient or victim is nonhuman.” Thus, in the case at hand, the court deleted the deadly weapon finding since it was directed at the puppy rather than a human. The case was remanded for a new hearing on punishment only since the conviction was affirmed for a state jail felony.
In Re Jackie King
Heiligmann v. Rose


Appellees sued appellant for damages after he poisoned three of their dogs. The Court held that an owner has an action and remedy against a trespasser for damages resulting from injuries inflicted upon dogs because they are property. The Court elaborated on the true rule in determining the value of dogs, explaining that  It may be either a market value or some special or pecuniary value to the owner. The Court allowed actual damages.

Hayes v. State Defendant appeals an order with the Henderson County Sheriff's Office to destroy his dogs under Chapter 822 of the Texas Health and Safety Code. More specifically, defendant claims reversible error after he was denied a jury trial. Defendant's three dogs were seized after they attacked an individual riding a bicycle in front of defendant's residence. After a hearing, the dogs were found to be dangerous pursuant to Section 822.041 related to dogs causing serious bodily injury to a person. The judge then ordered the dogs to be humanely destroyed. Hayes appealed the order and requested a jury trial, which was objected to by the Henderson County Attorney's Office and sustained by the court. The dogs were found to be dangerous at a bench trial and ordered humanely euthanized, while defendant was ordered to pay $2,780 to the county. On appeal, defendant argues the county court erred in removing his case from the jury trial docket. The court now considers two questions: "(1) whether the owner of a dog ordered to be humanely destroyed by a justice, county, or municipal court judge, pursuant to Chapter 822, subchapter A, of the Texas Health and Safety Code, has the right to appeal such order; and (2) if an appeal is allowed, whether a jury can be requested to hear the de novo appeal." The court here declined to adopt the state's interpretation that the statute's silence as to a right of appeal indicates that the legislature eliminated that right. In fact, the court observed Subchapter A of Chapter 822 dealing with less serious "dangerous dogs," allows a party to appeal a dangerous dog finding. The court found it would be inconsistent that the more severe Subchapter D denies an appeal of right where the less severe subchapter grants it, especially where a forfeiture of property occurs (i.e., dogs). As to the right to jury trial, the court found Chapter 822 silent on that issue. However, the court found the order for seizure and destruction of defendant's "special personal property" guaranteed him a trial by jury under Article I of the Texas Constitution. The trial court's Final Order was reversed and the case was remanded to county court.
Greater Houston German Shepherd Dog Rescue, Inc. v. Lira A German Shepherd dog owned by the appellees escaped through an open garage door of the appellees' home. Animal control impounded the dog for violations of city ordinances. When the appellees did not redeem the dog, instead of being euthanized, animal control turned the dog over to a rescue society for adoption. The dog was then sterilized and micro chipped. After learning what happened, appellees made a request to transfer the dog to them. When they were refused, the appellees filed suit. The trial court ruled in favor of the appellees on their conversion cause of action and their requests for declaratory and injunctive relief, which ordered appellant to turn the dog over to the appellees. On appeal, the court held that since the appellees did not redeem the dog in compliance with city ordinances, they did not have an entitlement to the dog, which was required to establish a conversion claim. Further, since the rescue organization was a recognized city rescue partner, animal control could lawfully transfer the dog to the rescue organization. The court also held the ordinance setting forth an additional 30-day redemption period did not apply to owners. The appeals court therefore reversed the judgment of the trial court, rendered judgment that appellees take nothing, and remanded to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion, including an appropriate order restoring possession of the dog to appellant.
Granger v. Folk


The State allows for two methods of protecting animals from cruelty: through criminal prosecution under the Penal Code or through civil remedy under the Health & Safety Code.

Gonzalez v. South Texas Veterinary Associates, Inc. Plaintiff acquired an indoor/outdoor cat with an unknown medical and vaccination history. Plaintiff took cat to defendant for treatment and the cat received a vaccination. The cat soon developed a golf-ball-sized mass that contained a quarter-sized ulceration which was draining “matter” on the cat's right rear leg. When plaintiff returned the cat to the defendant, defendant diagnosed the cat with an infection, prescribed an antibiotic for treatment, and instructed Gonzalez to return if the cat's symptoms did not improve. When the cat's symptoms did not improve, plaintiff took the cat to another veterinarian who diagnosed the cat with vaccine-associated sarcoma. The cat had to be eventually euthanized. Acting pro se, the plaintiff filed suit, alleging that defendant failed to: (1) inform her of vaccine-associated sarcoma risk; (2) adhere to feline vaccination protocols; and (3) properly diagnose vaccine-associated sarcoma in the cat, which resulted in the loss of her life. On appeal, plaintiff asserted that the trial court erred by granting defendant's no-evidence and traditional motions for summary judgment. After examining the evidence in the light most favorable to plaintiff and disregarding all contrary evidence and inferences, the court concluded that the plaintiff brought forth more than a scintilla of probative evidence establishing the relevant standard of care to prove her malpractice claims. The trial court, therefore, erred by granting the no-evidence summary judgment. On the traditional summary judgment claim, the court held that that the defendant's evidence did not conclusively prove that a veterinarian complied with the applicable standard of care in light of another veterinarian's report to the contrary. The trial court, therefore, erred by granting defendant's traditional motion for summary judgment. The case was reversed and remanded.
Garza v. State Carrollton, Texas municipal code prohibited the keeping of more than three pets on property within the city limits. Yvette Garza, a member of an animal rescue organization, challenged the determination that she had violated the city code by keeping more than three dogs. She argued that the code was unconstitutionally vague and that her actions were necessary. The court held that although the term "keep" was not defined in the statute, a person of ordinary intelligence would understand the law because "keep" has a common sense meaning. Garza also failed to produce evidence proving when the scheduled euthanasia of the dogs was going to occur, she therefore failed to establish the elements of her necessity defense.
Galindo v. State Appellant Galindo pleaded guilty to cruelty to nonlivestock animals and a deadly-weapon allegation from the indictment. The trial court accepted his plea, found him guilty, and sentenced him to five years in prison. The facts stem from an incident where Galindo grabbed and then stabbed a dog with a kitchen knife. The indictment indicated that Galindo also used and exhibited a deadly weapon (a knife) during both the commission of the offense and flight from the offense. On appeal, Galindo argues that the deadly-weapon finding is legally insufficient because the weapon was used against a "nonhuman." Appellant relies on the recent decision of Prichard v. State, 533 S.W.3d 315 (Tex. Crim. App. 2017), in which the Texas Court of Appeals held that a deadly-weapon finding is legally insufficient where the sole recipient of the use or exhibition of the deadly weapon is a nonhuman. The court here found the facts distinguishable from Prichard. The court noted that Prichard left open the possibility that a deadly-weapons finding could occur when the weapon was used or exhibited against a human during the commission of an offense against an animal. Here, the evidence introduced at defendant's guilty plea and testimony from sentencing and in the PSIR are sufficient to support the trial court's finding on the deadly-weapons plea (e.g., the PSI and defense counsel stated that Galindo first threatened his girlfriend with the knife and then cut the animal in front of his girlfriend and her son). The judgment of the trial court was affirmed.

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