Category Archives: Iowa

Donnellson, IA: City passes breed-neutral dog ordinance

Many thanks to Jodi for this update!

The city of Donnellson, Iowa has been debating their animal control ordinance since November 2011. There has been much back and forth between city officials as to whether the ordinance should be breed specific. Mayor Young has been unwavering in his position that he did not want to implement BSL.

The council finally passed an ordinance on Monday night, and it is not breed specific. I just spoke with the city clerk for clarification because we had been hearing that Donnellson already had restrictions on pit bulls. Ms. Krebill confirmed that the city never had any type of breed restrictions, and all the breed specific wording in the proposed ordinance has been removed from the final version. Dogs that are determined to be vicious based on their behavior will be required to be leashed and muzzled in public.

If you recall from a previous update on Donnellson back in January, Ms. Krebill stressed that the city was experiencing chronic problems with specific dogs/dog owners, and the mayor wanted an ordinance to target reckless, irresponsible dog owners rather than singling out breeds. The new ordinance is their tool to do just that.

All alerts for Donnellson:

Donnellson council establishes non-breed specific animal measure

By Lauren Zechin/MVM News Network
Published: Wednesday, May 9, 2012 4:17 PM CDT

DONNELLSON – Donnellson’s newly updated animal ordinance is now in effect.

During the city council’s regular meeting Monday at which four of the five council members were present, the first reading of the ordinance was passed and the second and third readings waived. Council member Jan Fraise was absent.

“I feel like this has been discussed long enough that we can, in good faith, skip the second and third readings,” Mayor Bill Young said.

The ordinance will not, after all, be breed-specific when defining what constitutes a “vicious” dog. […]

Full article retrieved 5/10/12 from


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.

Update on Donnellson, IA proposed breed ban

Donnellson already has BSL (not a ban) for owners of “pit bulls” and Rottweilers. There had been some discussion, mostly in the news media, over the last month about a possible breed ban. Yesterday we received some details from the Donnellson city clerk regarding the council’s discussions and decisions.

At this time, the Mayor is not in favor of a breed ban. He would like to see the fine for allowing any dog to run at large increased and to have the police department strictly enforce it. The fear of the pitbulls stems from a few owners who do not seem to properly care for their pitbulls and they allow them to run loose and they are causing the problems with the citizens. A two person committee is going to meet this month with the police dept to come up with some ideas for strengthening our laws and present ideas at the Feb 6th meeting.

This is a great opportunity for locals and residents to get with Donnellson officials to come up with effective breed-neutral alternatives, and possibly get the city’s BSL repealed entirely. We encourage respectful, educational dialogue with city officials to get them headed in a positive direction.

Contact city officials
City Hall, P.O. Box 50, 500 N. Oak St. (located behind the Bank & across from Dahms Chevrolet), Donnellson, IA 52625
Phone: 319-835-5714
Fax: 319-835-9224
Bill Young, Mayor,
Dave Ellingboe, Mayor Pro Tem,
Councilmembers contact page:

Jodi at Bless the Bullys also makes an important observation, one which we at StopBSL fully agree with.

This alert [and several others] emphasize the huge disadvantage we have in relying on the media for our information. That is why it is so helpful to us when we have people on the ground, interacting with officials, and giving us reliable information on the events taking place.

Although we try to get the most accurate information possible, BSL tracking is a very time-consuming activity. Tracking a proposal in even a single town can be difficult; but alert sites like ours are trying to follow dozens of proposals at once. And did I mention that our sites are run entirely by one or two volunteers? Often, we are faced with severe limitations on communication with a town, and the best we can do is repost what has been reported by an online news source. Sometimes, it’s accurate, and sometimes it’s not.

Which is why we sincerely appreciate and rely on input and assistance from people on the ground and in the trenches—local people who can walk to city hall to read the agenda and ask questions of the city clerk; who can provide us with accurate information; who can dig up email addresses; and who can attend meetings and distribute information to council members. Thank you to all of you who have been working so diligently to track BSL in your area and inform us about it!

Camanche, IA: City attorney suggests BSL

Camanche, IA, considered BSL for “pit bulls” in 2007 and 2010, but the council at each time decided against it. City attorney Tom Lonergan was supportive of the previous pushes for BSL. City administrator Tom Roth and at least one other councilmember were also supportive. The general argument at that time was that “pit bulls” are different and more dangerous compared to other dogs, and therefore needed to be specially regulated.

There’s a new councilmember and mayor on board now, and Lonergan apparently wants to see whether the new elected officials will support BSL. At the January  2012 council meeting, Camanche city attorney Tom Lonergan “brought up the issue of pit bulls,” which strongly suggests that he is still trying to get some kind of “pit bull” restrictions in place.

We do NOT know how the council responded to Lonergan’s request, so let’s play it safe. Please respectfully remind Camanche council that BSL is ineffective, discriminatory, and unacceptable.

Contact info for Camanche officials:
917 3rd Street, P.O. Box 77, Camanche, Iowa 52730
563-259-9025 FAX
City Clerk Sheryl Jindrich,
City Hall Administrator Tom Roth,

Thanks to Jesse for the heads up.

Donnellson, IA: Council to discuss dog ordinance tonight, Jan 9 (possible breed ban)

Donnellson, IA city council plans to discuss a dog ordinance (breed ban) proposal tonight, Jan 9 at 6 PM (confirmed on agenda by city clerk)

Donnellson city ordinance currently labels “pit bulls” and Rottweilers to be “vicious” (and places special restrictions on ownership). Last month, Donnellson officials started considering animal ordinance revisions. They suggested stepping up from restrictions to a breed ban.

At the last council meeting, Donnellson officials did not have the ordinance revisions formalized. Discussion continued, and the mayor suggested that they use Mount Pleasant’s animal ordinance as a model. Mount Pleasant bans the ownership of “pit bulls.”

Contact city officials
City Hall, P.O. Box 50, 500 N. Oak St. (located behind the Bank & across from Dahms Chevrolet), Donnellson, IA 52625
Phone: 319-835-5714
Fax: 319-835-9224
Bill Young, Mayor,
Councilmembers contact page:
City Attorney Greg Johnson, P.O. Box 405, Fort Madison, IA 52627
Phone: 319-372-2532

All alerts for Donnellson:

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 ( ) 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

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:–Dog-Ordinance-Lawsuit/

Aurelia, IA: Breed ban violates ADA, takes veteran’s service dog

In July 2010, the Department of Justice revised the Americans with Disabilities Act, issuing an opinion that service dogs should be excluded from local breed bans and breed restrictions.

However, some municipalities (notably, Denver) have refused to modify their breed ban to allow service dogs of banned breeds. A court case in Aurelia could set a significant precedent for other “holdout” cities like Denver.

Edit 12/22/11: An injunction against Aurelia has been filed by Mr. Sak, and the legal documents can be read here. Highly recommended reading:
“Animal Farm Foundation hopes that Officer Sak can be reunited with his service dog in time for Christmas,” said Kim Wolf, Community Engagement Specialist for Animal Farm Foundation. Thanks to Kim for keeping us in the loop!

Edit 12/26/11: The case will have a public hearing on December 28. Visit the Facebook event page for more details:


December 21, 2011
Contact: Kim Wolf, Animal Farm Foundation, Inc.
Tel: (845) 418-0778, Email:

Town Council in Iowa Forces Disabled Veteran & Retired Police Officer to Relinquish Service Dog

Legal action being pursued against City of Aurelia

Aurelia, Iowa – James Sak, 65, a disabled Vietnam Veteran and retired Chicago police officer, was forced to relinquish his service dog after the Aurelia Town Council voted December 14 to prohibit the dog, identified as a “pit bull,” from residing within Aurelia city limits. Although the City of Aurelia has breed-discriminatory laws prohibiting residents from owning “pit bulls,” the Council’s decision appears to violate 2010 guidance from the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) on breed limitations for service dogs (“Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability in State and Local Government Services”).

Sak and his wife, Peggy Leifer, moved to Aurelia in November to live near Leifer’s ailing mother, an 87-year-old longtime resident of Aurelia. Sak was accompanied by his service dog, Snickers, who is certified with the National Service Animal Registry. In 2008 Sak suffered a debilitating stroke that left him permanently disabled, unable to use the right side of his body, and confined to a wheelchair. For two years Sak worked with Aileen Eviota, a physical therapist with the University of Illinois Medical Center in Chicago, to improve his functional capabilities and live more independently through the use of a service dog. “Snickers has been individually trained to assist James with tasks which mitigate his disability, including walking, balance, and retrieving items around the house,” said Eviota in a letter to the Aurelia Town Council dated December 2, 2011.

Days after moving into their new home, Sak and Leifer were summoned to a Town Council meeting after a small group of citizens circulated a petition calling for the dog to be removed from city limits. Although the dog has no history of aggression or nuisance complaints, the petition urged the Council to “retain as written and without exception the existing City of Aurelia Ordinance, Chapter 58,” which prohibits ownership of “pit bull” dogs.

However, because Snickers works as a service animal for a disabled person, the dog is protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and should not be subject to the breed ban, according to 2010 guidance issued by the DOJ.

“The Department does not believe that it is either appropriate or consistent with the ADA to defer to local laws that prohibit certain breeds of dogs based on local concerns that these breeds may have a history of unprovoked aggression or attacks,” the DOJ stated in the regulation. “Such deference would have the effect of limiting the rights of persons with disabilities under the ADA who use certain service animals based on where they live rather than on whether the use of a particular animal poses a direct threat to the health and safety of others.”

On December 14 the Aurelia Town Council told Sak that he must remove his dog from city limits by the end of the day. Snickers is currently being boarded at facility outside of Aurelia.

“I lost my helper,” said Sak, who served more than 30 years in the Chicago Police Department and enlisted in the Army during the Vietnam War. “I’m not looking for special treatment, I just want to be safe, and I need my service dog for that.”

“Without the service dog here to assist, I can’t leave Jim unattended,” said Leifer. “But the whole reason we moved to Aurelia was to care for my 87-year-old mother who is ill. I drive across town to care for her three times a day. Jim has already fallen once and we had to call 911. I live in fear that he will have another stroke, or worse. We need his service dog back.”

Sak is a member of the Fraternal Order of Police – Chicago Lodge 7 (retired from the 12th District of the Chicago Police Department) and the American Legion – Post 390 of Aurelia (Vietnam Veteran, Army Signal Corps).

Sak is pursuing legal action against the City of Aurelia so he can be reunited with his service dog.

In accordance with our mission, Animal Farm Foundation is committed to assisting Sak with securing funding for this case. For more information, please contact Kim Wolf at (845) 418-0778 or

An excellent article in the Chicago Sun-Times can be read here:
More articles: