Can you hear me growling? That other noise you hear is me dragging out my soapbox because I am seriously pissed off.
Here’s the story. Jim Sak & his wife moved to Aurelia, Iowa to be closer to her mother. Jim is a Vietnam Vet and retired police officer who had a stroke and needs his service dog, Snickers, a pit bull type dog. Turns out Aurelia has breed specific legislation banning pit bull type dogs. The Aurelia city council called the Sak family to a council meeting and informed them Snickers had to go or she would be seized and killed.
First, breed specific legislation is ineffective and dangerous. (Find out more from the Animal Legal & Historical Center and from the ASPCA.) Second, the ignorant and arrogant city council members are in flagrant violation of the American Disabilities Act. Law is a funny thing. It will sure be interesting if an ADA lawsuit brings down breed specific legislation. I hope Jim Sak is reunited with his dog Snickers soon. For both their sakes. I suspect this idiotic ruling by the Aurelia City Council is going to bite them in butt. No pun intended. I sure hope it does.
Here’s what the Department of Justice has to say:
if an individual uses a breed of dog that is perceived to be aggressive because of breed reputation, stereotype, or the history or experience the observer may have with other dogs, but the dog is under the control of the individual with a disability and does not exhibit aggressive behavior, the title II entity cannot exclude the individual or the animal from a State or local government program, service, or facility.
The Department of Justice goes on the say:
The Department 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. Such deference would have the effect of limiting the rights of persons with disabilities under the ADA who use certain service animals based on where they live rather than on whether the use of a particular animal poses a direct threat to the health and safety of others. Breed restrictions differ significantly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Some jurisdictions have no breed restrictions. Others have restrictions that, while well-meaning, have the unintended effect of screening out the very breeds of dogs that have successfully served as service animals for decades without a history of the type of unprovoked aggression or attacks that would pose a direct threat, e.g., German Shepherds. Other jurisdictions prohibit animals over a certain weight, thereby restricting breeds without invoking an express breed ban. In addition, deference to breed restrictions contained in local laws would have the unacceptable consequence of restricting travel by an individual with a disability who uses a breed that is acceptable and poses no safety hazards in the individual´s home jurisdiction but is nonetheless banned by other jurisdictions. State and local government entities have the ability to determine, on a case-by-case basis, whether a particular service animal can be excluded based on that particular animal´s actual behavior or history–not based on fears or generalizations about how an animal or breed might behave. This ability to exclude an animal whose behavior or history evidences a direct threat is sufficient to protect health and safety. (from 28 CFR Part 35, CRT Docket No. 105;AG Order No. RIN 1190-AA46, Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability in State and Local Government Services.)