(Photo by Lorri Glawe)
A settlement has been made between the city of Aurelia and the couple that own the service dog, Snickers, a mixed breed of black lab, boxer and pit bull.
Snickers will be allowed to stay.
Snickers made national news in December after he was removed from Jim Sak and his wife Peggy Leifer. Snickers is not only part of the family but is also a service dog, helping Sak, who is permanently paralyzed due to a stroke, keep his independence.
The Aurelia City Council at that time claimed that Sak could not have the dog because of the pit bull genes and that it goes against the current city code of ordinances Chapter 58, "Pit Bull Dog," which states it is unlawful to keep or harbor, own or in any way possess a Pit Bull Dog or any mixed breed of a Pit Bull within the city of Aurelia. The city had the dog removed from Sak.
The couple moved to Aurelia from the Chicago area in November so that Leifer, who grew up in Aurelia, could care for her elderly mother.
Due to the stroke, Sak, who is permanently paralyzed on his right side, has certain limitations. Snickers worked extensively with the physical therapist and has been registered as a service dog.
Sak and Leifer asked the Aurelia City Council to make an exception to the provisions so they could keep Snickers in their home, but the council declined to make the amendment.
When Snickers was removed, he was kept at a local veterinarian but was later transported to Iowa City to stay with a "foster family."
At the time, the couple filed a suit against the city of Aurelia and the case was heard in district court. The Honorable Judge Mark W. Bennett granted the motion for preliminary injunction for Snickers to be returned immediately after being away for two weeks.
Since he has been home the couple have put up a secure eight-foot fence with security gates in their yard to give the community more peace of mind.
Earlier this year, Sak was diagnosed with throat cancer and has recently completed treatment at Mercy Medical Center in Sioux City. The same week as the settlement was made with the city of Aurelia, Sak received results of a biopsy and learned that the treatments have been successful.
The case was to go to trial this week, but a settlement was reached on a three to two vote of the council.
The settlement also stated that the fence is to be maintained, and, if they should move to another location in the city, a similar fence will be put in place.
Snickers is to be on a leash whenever he leaves the property, and, if Sak should pass away before Snickers, Leifer can continue to keep the dog.
It has been a long and emotional ride for the family.
"We're just glad it's finally over," said Leifer. "This has been a landmark for others, that they may be able to keep their service dogs, too."
When the settlement came through, Sak commented to his wife, "It feels like I got my heart back."