Aurelia, IA: City will go to court over “pit bull” service dog

Aurelia, IA, has decided to meet officer and service dog owner James Sak in court. The city has a ban on “pit bulls,” and Mr. Sak’s service dog, Snickers, looks like a “pit bull.” The city has refused to allow Mr. Sak’s service dog a permanent exemption to their breed ban.

We’re somewhat appalled that Aurelia is pursuing this matter. The Americans with Disabilities Act has been strengthened by a Department of Justice ruling that municipal breed bans / BSL cannot and should not apply to service dogs. It seems like a pretty clear-cut situation, and we’re not sure what Aurelia hopes to accomplish by pouring taxpayer money into a court battle with a disabled, cancer-suffering, retired police officer and his federally-protected, unoffending service dog.

All alerts for Aurelia:

Animal Farm Foundation is assisting Officer Sak. Below is their press release. Many thanks to Kim for keeping us updated on this issue.

This week the attorneys from Davis Brown Law Firm, who are representing the Saks pro bono, learned that the Town of Aurelia refused to settle out of court and reach a permanent agreement on Snicker’s legal ability to stay with Jim in Aurelia. Therefore, the case will be going to trial. The trial date has been set for July 8, 2013 (note: that says 2013, not 2012).

In the meantime, the attorneys have entered into the discovery period where they will be gathering expert testimony and factual evidence supporting the Saks’ case. This will include information on service dogs, the ADA guidelines, dog behavior, Jim’s health, and so forth.

“Animal Farm Foundation is pleased to support them in these efforts to present the most current, fact-based and peer-reviewed scientific research and information,” said Kim Wolf, Community Engagement Specialist for Animal Farm Foundation.

Snickers has permission from the Federal judge (per the hearing in December 2011) to remain at home with Jim throughout this process.

Earlier this year, Jim was diagnosed with throat cancer. He has been undergoing treatment at Mercy Medical Center in Sioux City. He is expected to recover, and the survival rate for this type of cancer is 70% or higher.

“The worst part of my [cancer] treatment is not having my dog here,” said Jim Sak.

Jim will be returning home to Aurelia upon completion of his treatment.

“Jim has been so strong throughout all of this. We know of his strength comes from knowing Snickers is waiting for him at home, waiting to do his job as his service animal and his support,” said Wolf.

“We want everyone to realize that Aurelia’s decision to use taxpayer dollars to put Jim through the agony of a trial, especially while he’s battling cancer, does not reflect the sentiments of every resident of Aurelia. The outpouring of support and disbelief from Jim’s neighbors has been huge. We don’t want all the residents of Aurelia to be cast in a negative light just because of the illogical, unjust, and heartless decisions of a small minority,” said Wolf.

2 responses to “Aurelia, IA: City will go to court over “pit bull” service dog

  1. Stephanie Speltz

    BSL is bull****! this is a service dog. let him b with the man, he is needed.

  2. I agree 100% with Ms. Speltz. Don’t make everyone else suffer because of a few careless dog owners. And those careless dog owners aren’t just bully breed owners. People of Aurelia, Iowa get the facts about dog breeds and what causes make a dog aggressive. It’s not the breed you need to ban, it’s the people who treat their breed poorly by tying them up on chains in the back yard and not socializing them properly. People are responsible for ill tempered dogs, not the dog or the breed of dog.