PETA Loses One, and What's to Come?

Jim Douglas (news video): “PETA, the SPCA, and City of Arlington all say the Court does not have the authority to overrule the Municipal Judge.  They claim the matter’s settled.”  But the CURRENT statute on point says: “An owner divested of ownership of an animal under Section 821.023 may appeal the order to a county court or county court at law”.  Now the legislature is often fuzzy when it writes statutes but that one looks pretty clear to me!  So, YAY, Woo Hoo, and KUDOS to Judge Rymell for reading the plain English of the statute and applying it exactly as it reads.

And, hopefully PETA, the SPCA, and the City of Arlington will have to pay for the response and hearing for their ridiculous motion on the subject and wasting everyone’s time!  I wasn’t at the hearing but, from here, it sure looks like some TRCP Rule 13 sanctions should be assessed.  (I’m sure all you kids know that the most recently passed law trumps and it’s hard to beat one that merely months old; especially when you’re arguing that a civil case should land in a criminal court on appeal.  If you’d won, you sure would have created a near perfect appeal with the ruling!)

Jim Douglas (news video): “There’s another hearing on a separate issue tomorrow…”  Again, I wasn’t there and the media sure isn’t coughing up many details so I can only guess.  Let’s see, the media mentioned the costs of caring for the animals.  Now, the City didn’t put on any evidence for that at the original hearing so I’m willing to bet they did put some on before Judge Rymell.  Hm, was this an appeal “on the record from below”?  If so, why did the City get to put on additional evidence?  If they did, sure looks to me like it should be disregarded as they shouldn’t get 2 bites at the testifying apple.  And that’s ESPECIALLY true if the City, you know, the PLAINTIFF, isn’t footing the costs of the care.  On what possible grounds does the City claim to collect on behalf of a third party NGO that agreed to take on the care of these animals and more ESPECIALLY when PETA has pledged $200,000 and ALL of the NGOs are using this as a major fund raising gig?

“A ruling is expected before midnight Saturday…”  How odd, a ruling late on a Saturday?  Well, I have to presume that Saturday, the 30th, must be the “10th calendar day” since the Municipal court sent up the record.  Well, that’s OK, Judge Rymell probably has until Midnight Monday under TRCP 4 and, if that rule doesn’t seem clear enough (saying to skip Saturdays and Sundays and go to the next work day), she can always issue an order sua sponte or on a party’s motion under TRCP 5 to extend the time.  Given the size of this case, she should surely give it as much time as she feels is appropriate to reach a well researched decision.

“The exotic creatures are now being cared for by the SPCA of Texas, which says it has spent about $300,000 on the unprecedented challenge.”  And what happened to HSNT and PETA?  My, my, how quickly they run when it comes to actually CARING for animals.  Oh, but that doesn’t stop them from USING the animals, this case, and the cost of the animals’ care for their fund raising pleas.  They’ve been out there whimpering and whining for donations for weeks now; ALL OF THEM.  But maybe, just MAYBE, they should all decline to take on care of animals unless they have the resources to do so.  We wouldn’t want seized animals at risk of neglect because fund raising doesn’t go well, would we?  If these NGOs are going to continue doing the City’s work, surely there should be a statute requiring them to post bond to ensure they have the funds to care for the animals at the time they take them into care.

Rymell could affirm the ruling, return the animals or dismiss the case.”  Judge Rymell’s options aren’t nearly so limited.  Even should she decide to “affirm”, the Municipal court’s order appears to be seriously defective in that it delegated to the City the final decision on disposition of the animals when the statute clearly mandates that the Court is to make that decision.  Judge Rymell could decide the disposition of each animal individually or she could remand it for the Municipal court to do so.  I don’t envy the judge that has to make that many individual findings but the statute clearly speaks in the singular; not to “all” animals as the animal controls officers and NGOs are so fond of using in their over generalizations.

Now, of course, if the City can’t match evidence to individual animals, the court could certainly find the evidence lacking and easily return “all” the animals with a simple finding.

And what of the offspring born since the seizure?  There’s been no mention of them except by the NGOs in their fund raising efforts.  I certainly hope the judge entering the final orders deals with them.  They couldn’t have been abused by U.S. Global Exotics (USGE) who has never had care of them at all.  Is the judgment final before the appeals are exhausted?  If not, then those animals may well belong to USGE regardless of the disposition of the initial animals.

“Her [Judge Rymell’s] decision cannot be appealed.”  I can understand where one would get that idea.  It is what the statute states.  Fortunately, we do not leave decisions of Constitutional magnitude to “final” decision before lower level courts.  There’s the state appellate courts (a couple of more levels) and then the whole federal court system through which a Constitutional issue might be appealed.  It can take years and years and the courts like to maintain “status quo” during that process.  The recently decided case concerning the circus elephants took 8 years.  I wonder if SPCA of Texas is prepared to take on 8 years (or more) of caring for these animals.

I certainly hope USGE has its paperwork ready and waiting to go get an emergency order from the higher courts, to maintain that lovely status quo pending further appeal, filed in the middle of the weekend.  Hm, sometimes those judges up higher don’t much appreciate a judge ruling at a time that will make them disrupt their weekends.  Maybe a Monday morning ruling would suit the judiciary and conserve judicial resources a wee bit better.

the city will turn over ownership to the SPCA of Texas… the SPCA of Texas… has already made arrangements with zoos, sanctuaries and rescue groups”  If one just keeps repeating something, will it become a foregone conclusion?  Can one make it so just by repeating the mantra over and over?

If, IF, the court finds for the City, pursuant to Sec. 821.023(d); “the court shall:

  • (1)  order a public sale of the animal by auction;
  • (2)  order the animal given to a nonprofit animal shelter, pound, or society for the protection of animals;  or
  • (3)  order the animal humanely destroyed if the court decides that the best interests of the animal or that the public health and safety would be served by doing so.”

Proceeds from the sale of the animal shall be applied first to any costs owed by the former owner under Section 821.023(e). The officer conducting the auction shall pay any excess proceeds to the justice or municipal court ordering the auction.  The court shall return the excess proceeds to the former owner of the animal.  Sec. 821.024(b).

These animals were in the stream of commerce at the time they were seized.  They are valuable and surely they’ve been maintained so as to have retained their value.  The statute clearly anticipates that animals of value WILL be sold and it provides for disposition of the proceeds.  In fact, depending on the sale proceeds (and whether or not the costs of care even fall to the City of Arlington at all [if not, there may not be cause to assess them against USGE, at least not in this case unless the caretakers have been properly joined as parties to the suit]), USGE may well have a residual interest in the proceeds and failure to sell them would be a further deprivation of property rights.

And lastly, we all know that PetPoint is being used to track the USGE animals.  What possible reason could you media folks have to NOT press them for an accounting of the original animals, how many have been killed and died in the past few weeks; how many born?  Oh, yeah, I forgot.  You media types support the animal rights activists even when they kill and kill and kill and…

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