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James Sak, Snickers

James Sak, of Aurelia, Iowa, with his service dog, Snickers. The dog is the subject of a legal battle involving a city ordinance banning pit bulls. (COURTESY PHOTO)

 

SIOUX CITY, Iowa --- Snickers can come home.

That was the ruling of U.S. District Judge Mark W. Bennett, who on Wednesday ruled in favor of James Sak and Peggy Leifer, a couple who were seeking an injunction against an Aurelia, Iowa, ordinance that banned pit bulls.

Sak and Leifer argued that Snickers, a 3-year-old pit bull, acts as a service animal for Sak, a retired Chicago police officer disabled since a 2008 stroke. They argued they should be exempt from the city pit bull ban.

In granting the injunction, Bennett said lawyers for the city hadn't shown that Aurelia would suffer "substainable harm" by Snickers. The dog has been housed at a Cherokee, Iowa, veterinarian kennel since Dec. 15.

After paying a $1 bond, Sak and Leifer will be allowed to have Snickers in their home.

The city may appeal the ruling, taking the case to the Iowa Supreme Court. Aurelia officials and George Wittgraf, an attorney for the city, did not return messages left Wednesday.

Bennett said there was sufficient evidence that both Sak and Leifer will suffer "sustainable harm" without Snickers, a pit bull, black Lab and boxer mix that is a registered certified service animal.

The dog is trained to help Sak if he falls, Leifer said.

"Snickers can nudge him towards a wall and Jim can use the dog as a support," she said.

The ruling applies only to Snickers; the city's ban on pit bulls is still in effect.

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After the hearing, Sak said he has missed having Snickers around.

"As soon as I see him, I'm gonna let him kiss me on the face," Sak said.

EARLIER STORY

AURELIA, Iowa (AP) --- A retired police officer is suing a northwest Iowa city after his service dog was banned because of an ordinance against pit bulls.

Jim Sak moved to Aurelia last month to be with his ailing mother. But Snickers, a pit bull mix that's certified as a service dog for Sak, was forced to be put in a kennel.

Jim Sak, a former Chicago police officer, suffered a stroke in 2008 that left him with limited use of his right hand and leg.

Sak has filed a lawsuit against the city claiming Snickers is cleared by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

A hearing on the suit next week in federal court in Sioux City.

Aurelia city officials didn't immediately respond to calls from KTIV seeking comment.

 

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