A self-styled “animal rescue” organization that operates from a house on Stewart Road must shut down or leave Palmhurst by mid-September.
State District Judge Marla Cuellar on Wednesday ordered Jesus Meave, who founded the Franklin All Animal Rescue Team, to shut down all kennels on the Stewart Road property by Sept. 16.
The decision followed more than five months of litigation between Meave and the city of Palmhurst, which claimed the sound of barking dogs and disgusting smell had created a public nuisance.
“We were already planning on moving,” Meave said. “So the lawsuit was never a big deal.”
Meave founded the Franklin All Animal Rescue Team in 2014, when he lived in McAllen.
After he clashed with the city, though, Meave packed up and moved to Palmhurst.
Meave found a modest home near the intersection of North Stewart Road and Buddy Owens Boulevard. He built kennels on the one-acre property and started accepting stray animals.
At one point during the pandemic, Meave said the organization had nearly 300 animals on the property.
Neighbors started complaining about the noise and the smell.
One described the kennels as “a daily 24/7 horror to me and my family.” Another said the “smells coming from the kennel are constant and very offensive.” A third complained the dogs barked “almost every night” until 2 a.m. or 3 a.m.
The Palmhurst Police Department, meanwhile, cited Meave for building a dog kennel within 50 feet of nearby homes, operating a business without a permit, failing to maintain a premises where livestock is kept and keeping “any dog in the city which by loud, frequent or habitual barking or howling shall cause annoyance and disturb the peace and quiet of any person.”
Meave pleaded not guilty and demanded a jury trial. The city of Palmhurst responded by filing a civil lawsuit against him.
“There’s no city, there’s no government agency, there’s no legal resource that can shut us down,” Meave said.
Meave capitalized on the controversy, soliciting donations on Facebook from “FAART Nation” for injured animals.
“I’ve been able to turn the negativity around,” Meave said, adding that he invited anyone with concerns to visit the property and see the conditions firsthand.
In May, however, Meave struck a deal with Palmhurst that required him to cease all operations within city limits by Sept. 16. Cuellar, the state district judge, signed the order on Wednesday.
“The parties were glad to get a date certain for the termination of the kennel operation,” said City Attorney Darrell Davis. “And they said it would be within 120 days, so we hope it will be sooner rather than that date.”
Meave said he’s already looking at locations in rural parts of Hidalgo County, far away from neighborhoods and beyond the reach of city zoning restrictions.
“We shouldn’t have any more issues,” Meave said. “And it should allow us to grow and do some things that I want to do and get done.”