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Sioux City, IA: Owners lobby for repeal of pit bull ban
Posted on July 8, 2009 by stopbslcom
Sioux City Journal : Owners lobby for repeal of pit bull ban

Owners lobby for repeal of pit bull ban
Incident with Rochester's Lab proves any breed can bite, they say

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

SIOUX CITY - Several pit bull owners urged city lawmakers Monday night to repeal the ban on new pit bull ownership, pointing out that it's not just their breed that bites people.

The group referred to Councilman Aaron Rochester's Labrador retriever. Sioux City Animal Control declared the 3-year-old dog, Jake, vicious for biting a neighbor who was walking by the Rochesters' home on June 27.

Rochester appealed the designation, but last week, Police Capt. Pete Groetken upheld Animal Control's ruling.

Rochester, who initiated the pit bull ban last year, said he intends to appeal to a special master in an effort to save Jake from a death sentence.

The ban, which took effect in September, includes regulations for microchipping, leashing and kenneling pit bulls and pit-bull mixes. Owners were allowed to keep pets they already had but may not replace any that die.

"I think it's been proven that any breed can bite," Andy Bagshaw said at Monday's City Council meeting. "I commend the City Council for wanting to keep citizens safe. … This ordinance only hurts responsible pet owners. If my dog has to be behind a 6-foot fence, all dogs should be behind a 6-foot fence."

Rochester has said Jake was wearing a collar to shock him if he strayed across the underground electric fence in his yard, but said he didn't know whether the animal got shocked when he ran onto the sidewalk and bit the neighbor. The man, who has not been identified, received five stitches in his left thumb. Groetken's report on the incident indicates the attack was unprovoked.

Rochester has said he believes Jake was protecting his daughter, who was playing with a friend in the yard.

"I do not believe in these electric fences," Rick Borg, a pit bull owner, said at Monday's meeting. "They aren't worth a darn. … I'm sorry for you, Mr. Rochester. If the fence had been there, your kids wouldn't have to worry about losing their dog."

If a special master appointed by the council upholds the vicious designation, the Lab will have to be euthanized. Rochester would have the option of appealing the master's decision to district court but said Monday he does not plan to do so.

On Feb. 4, 2008, the council appointed retired Police Capt. Glen Hanson to serve as special master in such appeals. Hanson, a 34-year veteran of the department serves as a volunteer and is not reimbursed.

Amanda Gardner, another pit bull owner, said she and others started Justice for Pit Bulls, which finds out-of-state homes for pit bulls that can't be licensed in the city but haven't been declared vicious or high risk.

"I'm sorry anybody has to go through this," she told Rochester. "If it comes to that (euthanization), maybe we can place your dog."

Rochester replied, "I really appreciate that."

It's most likely a vain hope, however. Cindy Rarrat, owner of Sioux City Animal Control, said Monday night that the city's vicious animal ordinance no longer allows animals that have been declared vicious to be placed in other jurisdictions.

"I have 11 dogs all waiting who have been determined high risk or vicious," Rarrat said.

Among them, in addition to Jake, is Jeri Dillavou's dog. Dillavou also has appealed her case to the special master. She urged the council to redefine vicious animals to give Groetken and the special master more authority to consider the circumstances of each dog bite.

Councilman Jim Rixner told her, "I strongly disagree. If a dog bites someone, we have Animal Control to protect the public. I believe these hearings are done in a fair way."

Mayor Mike Hobart, who owns three dogs, said, "My heart goes out to you if your dog ends up being euthanized."

Irresponsible pet owners

The City Council gave final approval Monday to beefing up the penalty for someone convicted of animal abuse or animal torture.

The new definition of an irresponsible pet owner makes it illegal for someone who has been convicted of or pleaded guilty to abusing or torturing a pet to own another animal. Existing law required two convictions before the person was banned from pet ownership in Sioux City.

The change came as a result of a case involving a man charged with killing his puppy. Bobby Loggins of Sioux City is charged with animal torture, an aggravated misdemeanor, and filing a false police report, a serious misdemeanor.

Police say he killed his American bulldog puppy by punching it about 30 times in the face for urinating on the carpet at a party. Loggins has denied it, saying the 5-month-old puppy's death was an accident.
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