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Bureaucracy Runs Wild

By Staff | May 22, 2012

There’s been a little soiree` going on down in Aurelia for a while now that’s giving small-town Iowa a bad name.

In a nutshell, a couple that used to live in Chicago moved to Aurelia a year or so ago in order for the wife to care for an elderly parent. Her husband, a stroke victim, has a service dog “Snickers” who assists the partially paralyzed man around the house. Sounds all simple, doesn’t it?

But here’s the catch Snickers is a mixed breed Black Lab, Boxer, and Pit Bull. Because of that last little tag, the Aurelia City Council has demanded that the dog be removed from the city limits, service dog designation notwithstanding. The community has an ordinance banning Pit Bulls from the city limits.

So in December of 2011, Snickers was removed from his master’s home to a friend’s home outside of town, and the couple did the American thing they took the city to court, alleging violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), all businesses and organizations that serve the public must allow people with disabilities to bring their service animals into all areas that are open to the public. The couple claims that under the ADA, they can take Snickers anywhere in public, legally, but yet, the community of Aurelia says that they can’t even have Snickers in the confines of their own home.

Aurelia’s City Council claims the dog is in violation of city ordinance because of his genetic makeup with pit bull genes. The city ordinance says it is unlawful to keep, harbor or possess in any way a Pit Bull Dog or any mixed breed of Pit Bull within the City of Aurelia. The city’s ordinance was adopted in March 2008.

Back in 2008, Mr. Sak suffered a stroke, and during his recovery in a hospital, his physical therapists became aware of his bond with his dog. The physical therapist felt the dog could be trained as a service animal to assist Sak and after two years of therapy for Sak and training for Snickers, the National Service Animal Registry certified the dog as a Service Dog.

So, the line was drawn in the sand. U.S. District Court Judge Mark W. Bennett granted a motion for preliminary injunction against the City. With the judge’s blessing for Snickers to be an Aurelia resident again, the couple’s lawyers met with the city’s lawyers to attempt to negotiate a final settlement, but in the last week or so, the City has refuses to settle the issue out of court, and wants to go trial. A trial date of July 8, 2013, has been set for this mess.

So, the whole issue revolves around which set of regulations has precedence the Americans with Disabilities Act, or an Ordinance of the City of Aurelia, Iowa.

One thing in this case is a given there will be a loser and right now, the residents of Aurelia are losing without even being directly involved. With the city taking this “I’ll see you in court” attitude, the taxpayers are footing the bill, and win or lose, it ain’t gonna be a cheap fight.

It just seems sad that there appears to be no give-and-take on the part of the city fathers, along with a lack of understanding of the nature of a service animal in this case. A little bit of education, as well as compassion, never hurt anyone.