Pit Bull, Disabled Man to be Reunited

Despite an Aurelia pit bull ban, Snickers can return home, judge says

By Lisa Balde
|  Wednesday, Dec 28, 2011  |  Updated 12:06 PM CDT
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Pit Bull, Disabled Man to be Reunited

A disabled former Chicago police officer is getting his service dog back.

An Iowa judge on Wednesday ruled in favor of an injunction to allow Snickers, a pit bull mix, to immediately be reunited with owner James Sak.

Earlier this month, Sak, 65, had to relinquish Snickers under a pit bull ban in Aurelia, Iowa. After a city council vote, Sak was asked Dec. 14 to remove the dog from town, and Snickers was sent to a boarding facility outside Aurelia.

The two are expected to be reunited Wednesday afternoon.

"Today I got my peace of mind back," Sak said. "I hope that nobody else has to go through what we went through."

Sak suffered a stroke in 2008 that left him confined to a wheelchair and unable to use the right side of his body. He was paired at the University of Illinois Medical Center in Chicago with Snickers, who helps him walk, balance and call from help in an emergency, he said.

Sak and his wife, Peggy Leifer, moved from Chicago to Iowa last month to live closer to sick family. After Snickers' removal, Leifer said she couldn't leave her husband alone.

The couple filed a motion for injunction, granted Wednesday during a two-hour hearing in Sioux City.

Kim Wolf, community engagement specialist for the Animal Farm Foundation, helping Sak with the case under the Americans with Disabilities Act, said numerous people came out to support Sak and Snickers, including strangers who drove hours to be there.

"Animal Farm Foundation is thrilled that Officer Sak will be reunited with his service dog, Snickers, and his safety will no longer be compromised," said Wolf said. "This case is a sad example of what happens when cities discriminate against dogs based on breed or appearance."

The city now has the opportunity to appeal the motion. Wolf said they're prepared to fight it.

"We will continue to stand by Officer Sak and Snickers regardless of how far they go. We're behind them the whole way."

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