Service Dog Considered a Banned Breed

Saw this retweeted on Twitter [full article]:

Breed Specific Legislation Laws (BSL) have become a growing trend amongst cities trying to ban “bully breeds” from their city limits. A city ordinance which bans pit-bulls in the city of Aurelia, Iowa has caught national attention after the ban kept a service dog from his owner because of his breed.  The ordinance was approved in March of 2008 when a meter reader was bitten by a pit bull.  Due to the fact that several people felt unsafe and that the breed was labeled as being “aggressive” (which is only a matter of opinion rather than fact) the ban was placed which prohibits owners of the breed from having them within the city limits.

The owner of the dog in question is a disabled 64 year old Vietnam Veteran named Jim Sak.  He served for over 30 years on the police force in the city of Chicago, Illinois.  Now that Jim has retired both he and his wife Peggy have relocated to Aurelia so that they could be closer to help Peggy’s mother who is an ailing 87 year old woman.

Jim is now struggling to live his daily life due to the fact that an ordinance passed in the city prohibits him from having his service dog “Snickers” simply because he happens to be a pit bull mix.  Snickers, has been with Jim for five years and is certified through the National Service Animal Registry.  The Americans for Disabilities Act (ADA) protects people with disabilities by giving them the right to own a service dog regardless of their breed.  Snickers happens to be a Boxer, Labrador and Pit Bull mix, but the fact that he is mixed with the banned breed has started a storm of problems for Jim and Peggy.

Jim suffered from a hemorrhagic stroke three years ago that causes him to have spasms on his right side affecting both his hand and leg.  He said that it occurs from doing more activity than he should, or during times of stress.  He is forced to use a wheelchair 95 percent of the day due to his disabilities. Snickers is a service dog and trained to sit next to Jim when he needs assistance and waits for the command on what he is told to do.  Snickers will usually be the one who goes to alert Jim’s wife so that she can help him to get back into his chair.  Jim stated in an article for MSNBC “If I fall on my back I’m a turtle. I just don’t move.” he explained, “I grab that collar…He’ll pull me over by the table and chairs and I can pick myself up.”  He says Snickers is very well trained, and has never hurt anyone. “He has never even growled at anybody. The kids come home from school and would stop and play with him.”The Sioux City Journal reported that said Snickers’ presence allows Jim to be left at home for Peggy to go take care of her mother.  Since Snickers has been gone, Peggy has had to leave Jim at home alone with no one to assist him. Jim has reportedly fallen once, and an emergency call was made to 911 for assistance.

The article notes that first a petition was signed by local residents to enforce the ban and then a council meeting voted that the service dog was not an exception. Jim’s filed a lawsuit, though, and the Animal Farm Foundation is assisting him. The hearing was scheduled for today and I’m very interested in the results of Jim’s lawsuit. As the article notes: “This case has the potential to set a precedent for many others. The number of aging and/or disabled people in America is larger than ever, and service dogs can be an essential tool for this population. The right to live independently and safely is a cherished freedom, so the world is watching Iowa to make sure this freedom is not compromised because of a service dog’s breed or physical appearance.”


  1. While I fully support the right of people to use whatever breed they want as a service dog, and I’m glad this case went the way it did, I must point out two things: First, the National Service Animal Registry is a total scam. You pay money and get a certificate. It’s not a real credential of any sort. Second, teaching a pit bull sized dog to drag a grown man by its collar is very dangerous to the dog. Harnesses are made to help with such tasks. This man needs to work with someone who can assist him in teaching the dog to work with him safely.

    • Yeah, the dragging thing definitely made me do a double-take. Didn’t know anything about the National Service Animal Registry, but the concept itself makes me wary.

      I think what bothers me the most about the whole thing is that it doesn’t do anything about dogs that are mistreated, mishandled, improperly trained, etc. and only further promotes the idea that specific breeds themselves are bad. Or even the dog’s fault, when more often that isn’t the case.

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