Oh really, Aurelia? The town that won’t let disabled vet, former cop keep his service dog
For 32 years after that, he served the city of Chicago as a tactical officer in the police department.
Last month, the retired cop moved to the small town of Aurelia, Iowa, to help serve his ailing 87-year-old mother in law.
And here’s what Aurelia, Iowa, has served him: Notice that his service dog, who helps him cope with the effects of a stroke, can’t live there.
The 65-year-old disabled veteran has shipped Snickers to a kennel outside of town after city officials threatened to seize and destroy the dog, a five-year-old — you guessed it — pit bull.
Days after moving into their new home, Sak and his wife were summoned to a town council meeting after a group of citizens circulated a petition calling for the dog to be removed from city limits.
The council voted December 14 to prohibit the dog from residing within Aurelia city limits — a move the Animal Farm Foundation (AFF) says, despite a local breed ban, violates 2010 guidelines issued by the U.S. Department of Justice on breed limitations for service dogs.
Attorneys representing AFF filed a request for a preliminary injunction earlier today, asking a judge to order Snickers immediately be returned to Sak. An expedited hearing was requested, and AFF says it hopes to see Snickers back with Sak by Christmas.
AFF maintains that, 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.
The Department of Justice said last year it “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.”
Snickers has no history of aggression or nuisance complaints, the AFF says.
In 2008, Sak suffered a stroke that left him unable to use the right side of his body, and in a wheelchair.
For two years Sak worked with Aileen Eviota, a physical therapist with the University of Illinois Medical Center in Chicago, to learn to 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,” Eviota wrote in a letter to the Aurelia Town Council dated December 2, 2011.
The Animal Farm Foundation says it has hired an attorney to represent the Sak family and is paying to board the dog at the out-of-town kennel.
“It’s about the injustice of this man having his service dog taken away — this man who is a Vietnam War veteran and a retired Chicago police officer who has always given back to the community,” said executive director Stacy Coleman.
“This town has taken away this man’s independence, his peace of mind, and his freedom to move about his house, go out in public and keep from having to go to a nursing home with 24-hour care. He’s physically in danger without his dog.”
Aurelia passed its breed specific ban in March of 2008, after a meter reader was bitten by a pit bull, according to the Chicago Sun-Times
Peggy Leifer, Jim’s wife, told the Sun-Times she and her husband weren’t aware of the ban when they moved, and that she’s “appalled and embarrassed by the town I grew up in…They have made our lives a living hell since we got here.”
“They called us to a city council meeting Dec. 14 and voted 3 to 2 to make no exceptions. I had to get him out of the house by the next day. That dog has never been away from us a night in his life. He’s the sweetest, most good-natured dog you’d ever want to meet,” Peggy Sak said.
“I lost my helper,” Jim Sak said. “I’m not looking for special treatment, I just want to be safe, and I need my service dog for that.”
Posted by jwoestendiek December 22nd, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ada, americans with disablities act, animal farm foundation, animals, aurelia, breed ban, breed-specific, chicago, cop, council, destroy, disabilities, disabled, dogs, filed, injunction, iowa, jim sak, justice department, officer, pets, pit bull, police, retired, seize, service, service dog, snickers, sought, stroke, threats, town, veteran, victim, vietnam