Aurelia, IA loses court case, “pit bull” service dog returned

Many thanks to Kim for keeping us updated on this case!

Animal Farm Foundation is pleased to announce that the Honorable Judge Mark W. Bennett (http://www.iand.uscourts.gov/e-web/home.nsf/0/17a5762715fa4c52862573c90079072c?OpenDocument ) granted the motion for preliminary injunction for Snickers, a service dog, to be returned immediately to James Sak. Snickers will be returned to Officer Sak’s home in Aurelia later this afternoon.

Judge Bennett’s ruling carves an exception to the City of Aurelia’s ordinance banning “pit bull” dogs from city limits. Sak is a disabled Vietnam Veteran and retired Chicago Police Officer who depends on Snickers for his safety, mobility, and independence.

The hearing took more than two hours. Numerous people came out to support Officer Sak and Snickers, including a number of perfect strangers who drove hours to be there.

“Animal Farm Foundation is thrilled that Officer Sak will be reunited with his service dog, Snickers, and his safety will no longer be compromised. This case is a sad example of what happens when cities discriminate against dogs based on breed or appearance. Breed discriminatory legislation does nothing to enhance public safety, but it’s extremely expensive to enforce, it tears apart families, and it divides communities. Hopefully other cities will learn from this and choose alternative approaches to building safe and compassionate communities.” – Kim Wolf, Community Engagement Specialist, Animal Farm Foundation

“Today I got my peace of mind back. I hope that nobody else has to go through what we went through.” – James Sak

Animal Farm Foundation will continue to support Officer Sak with this case if the City if Aurelia appeals the decision in the United States Court of Appeals.

For additional info/interviews, please contact Kim Wolf at (845) 418-0778 or kwolf@animalfarmfoundation.org.

Recent guidance published by the federal Department of Justice regarding the Americans with Disabilities Act states that service dogs are essentially exempt from municipal breed-specific legislation. The judge in this case upheld the DoJ guidance in favor of Sak.

Note that the ADA exemption does not apply to pet dogs, therapy dogs, or any other dogs that are not employed as service dogs as defined by the ADA. However, the DoJ’s reasoning for the exemption is significant because the same reasons (dogs should be assessed as individuals, breed stereotypes are not reality, a dog’s actual behavior is more relevant than appearance, etc.) could also apply to pet dogs. Don’t count on the DoJ or any other federal entity to jump in and help pet dog owners fight BSL, though. Federal government doesn’t have the authority to create dog control laws. For pet dogs, your state and local laws will continue to apply.

Here are a few of the news articles about the outcome:
http://www.nbcchicago.com/news/local/Judge-Allows-Pit-Bull-Disabled-Man-to-Reunite-136320353.html

http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/45807018/ns/today-good_news/t/despite-pit-bull-ban-man-be-reunited-service-dog/#.Tvx_etT2ZPJ

http://www.siouxcityjournal.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/judge-aurelia-iowa-couple-can-keep-pit-bull/article_60a6a734-5467-5a04-be78-7c5e49993d78.html

http://wcfcourier.com/news/local/update-judge-aurelia-iowa-couple-can-keep-pit-bull/article_266b6e60-2d8f-11e1-9c2f-0019bb2963f4.html

http://www.therepublic.com/view/story/e316dc1565c14603bc6b854db11a443a/IA–Dog-Ordinance-Lawsuit/

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