Court of Appeals of Texas, Twelfth District, Tyler
from the County Court at Law No. 1 of Henderson County, Texas
consisted of Worthen, C.J., Hoyle, J., and Neeley, J.
Hayes appeals an order directing the animal control officer
with the Henderson County Sheriff's Office to humanely
destroy three dogs pursuant to Chapter 822 of the Texas
Health and Safety Code. In one issue, Hayes claims the trial
court committed reversible error by denying him a jury trial.
We reverse and remand.
January 19, 2015, Mikel "Christopher" Kirkpatrick
was riding a bicycle in the roadway in front Hayes's
residence when Hayes's three dogs attacked him. An
officer from the Henderson County Sheriff's Office
executed an affidavit for seizure of the dogs. The justice
court issued a warrant to seize the three dogs. Following a
hearing, the justice court found that the dogs were dangerous
under section 822.041 of the Texas Health and Safety Code,
and had caused serious bodily injury to a person. The justice
court ordered that two of the dogs be humanely destroyed and
the third dog be returned to Hayes.
appealed the justice court's order to the county court at
law and requested a jury trial. The Henderson County
Attorney's Office objected to the jury request. The
county court at law sustained the objection and removed the
case from the jury docket. After a bench trial, the judge
found the three dogs were dangerous, that Hayes was the owner
of the dogs, and that as a result of an unprovoked attack,
Kirkpatrick suffered serious bodily injury. In accordance
with these findings, the court ordered that the three dogs be
humanely destroyed and ordered Hayes to pay $2, 780.00 to
Henderson County. This appeal followed. 
sole issue, Hayes contends that the county court at law erred
by removing his case from the jury docket and denying him a
jury trial after his timely jury request and payment of the
applicable fee. Henderson County did not contest the county
court at law's subject matter jurisdiction. However, on
appeal, it asserts that Hayes had no right to appeal the
justice court's ruling. Accordingly, this case presents
two questions for our review: (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.
to Appeal the Justice Court's Order
first address Hayes's right to appeal the justice
court's order to the county court at law because it
directly affects this Court's jurisdiction.
of Review and Applicable Law
matter jurisdiction is essential to the authority of a court
to decide a case." Tex. Ass'n of Bus. v. Tex.
Air Control Bd., 852 S.W.2d 440, 443 (Tex. 1993). It is
never presumed and cannot be waived. Id. at 443-44.
An appellate court is obligated, even sua sponte, to
determine the threshold question of jurisdiction. See
Walker Sand, Inc. v. Baytown Asphalt Materials, Ltd., 95
S.W.3d 511, 514 (Tex. App.-Houston [1st Dist.] 2002, no
pet.). The existence of subject matter jurisdiction is a
question of law that we review de novo. Tex. Dep't of
Parks & Wildlife v. Miranda, 133 S.W.3d 217, 226
construction of a statute is also a question of law we review
de novo. See First Am. Title Ins. Co. v.
Combs,258 S.W.3d 627, 631 (Tex. 2008).
When interpreting a statute, we look first to the plain
meaning of the words used. Id. If the statute is
clear and unambiguous, we apply its words according to their
common meaning in a way that gives effect to each word,
clause, and sentence. Id. We do not resort to
extrinsic aides, such as legislative history, to interpret a
clear and unambiguous statute. Sullivan v. Abraham,
488 S.W.3d 294, 299 (Tex. 2016). We apply these same concepts
when construing rules of civil procedure. Bradt v.
Sebek, 14 S.W.3d 756, ...