Retired and disabled police officer Jim Sak knows that the law often looks at issues in terms of black and white, but a law in Aurelia, Iowa, is preventing him from keeping his black-and-white service dog.
The dog, Snickers, is a pit bull mix. Sak, now 65, suffered a stroke three years ago and depends upon Snickers for his health and safety.
"I have spasms on my right side where the leg gives out whenever I get upset or try to do too much," Sak, also a Vietnam veteran, told the Chicago Sun-Times. "When Snickers sees that my hand is moving, he sits down by me right away and waits for me to tell him what to do. Usually, he goes to get my wife so she can help me get back in the chair. Without him, I feel lost."
When he lived in Chicago, his service dog was never a problem. But last month, Sak and his wife moved to Aurelia to live closer to his 87-year-old mother. That's when their troubles began. Aurelia has a three-year-old ordinance banning all pit bulls -- put in place after a dog bit a meter maid -- and has forced Sak to send Snickers to a kennel outside the city limits. If Sak brings the dog back, the city council has threatened to have the animal destroyed.
The matter made its way before the city council on Dec. 14, but officials voted 3-2 against making exceptions to the pit bull ban.
A nonprofit called the Animal Farm Foundation is paying for Snickers' kennel fees and says it has hired an attorney to represent Sak. The organization says that Snickers is exempt from the pit bull ban because he is certified with the National Service Animal Registry and that attempts to remove him are a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Department of Justice issued guidelines in 2010 that says service dogs are not subject to breed bans.
Both Sak and Snickers have suffered during their separation. Sak told news station KTIV that he has fallen twice since Snickers has been boarded. Meanwhile, Snickers is suffering from anxiety. "He's got hives on his underside, his hair is just falling out," Sak said.
Pit bull bans exist in many towns and cities around the country, but some have recently made exceptions for service animals. Denver, Colo., put its pit bull service dog exemption in writing in April of this year after lawsuits from the Animal Law Center.
The case comes up in front of a federal court in Sioux City on Dec. 28. Meanwhile, a petition of Change.org seeks 1,000 signatures asking the Aurelia City Council to let Sak keep his service dog.
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