Gus the dangerous dog entitled to appeal

Jennifer Romano v. The State of Texas, 09-13-00250-CV (Tex. App. – Beaumont, November 21, 2013).

This is a dangerous dog case where the court held that even though the Texas Health and Safety Code does not provide for an appeal, a person wishing to appeal a dangerous dog determination by a trial court can appeal a justice court judgment to county court at law.

The court begins the opinion, not by referencing the type of case but by calling Gus the dog by name and referencing his name throughout. The underlying fact are simple. Gus the dog, who was being fostered by a third party, attacked the foster care giver.  The Montgomery County animal control officer issued an affidavit for seizure. The justice court issued a warrant for Gus’s seizure and subsequently determined that Gus caused serious bodily injury and should be destroyed.  Romero appealed to County Court at Law No. 2, but the state argued chapter 822 does not authorize an appeal from the justice court’s judgment so CCL No. 2 lacked jurisdiction. The CCL No. 2 granted the motion to dismiss and Romero appealed.

The Beaumont Court of Appeals held that Subchapter A of Chapter 822 of the Texas health and Safety Code does not contain any appellate provisions. Nevertheless, a county court at law has original and appellate jurisdiction over all causes and proceedings prescribed by law for county courts. Tex. Gov’t Code Ann. § 25.0003(a) (West Supp. 2013). Chapter 822 does grant jurisdiction to hear dangerous dog cases to county courts (albeit as the trial court).  Additionally, even when an appeal is not expressly provided by other laws, §51.001(a) of the Texas Civil Practice & Remedies Code states that a party may appeal a justice court’s ruling when the judgment or amount in controversy exceeds $250. Accordingly, even without express authorization from Subchapter A, the county court at law had jurisdiction as long as the amount in controversy was met. Since the record is silent as to the amount in controversy, the case was remanded.

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