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Iowa politician who pushed for pit bull ban seeks mercy for his Labrador that bit a neighbor

July 10, 2009 |  3:52 pm

Pit bull

Sioux City, Iowa, City Councilman Aaron Rochester was instrumental in a successful campaign last year to ban pit bulls within city limits. Among the most damning evidence he presented in support of the ban was animal control department reports showing that pit bulls were the breed most apt to bite people.

Rochester had a bit of egg on his face, then, when his own dog -- a yellow Labrador retriever named Jake -- bit a neighbor and was deemed vicious by the Sioux City animal control department. Rochester maintained that Jake, "a great watchdog," was only trying to protect his young daughter and a friend, who were playing nearby. But the bite required five stitches, and the victim maintained he'd done nothing to provoke the attack.

A city code requires that vicious dogs be euthanized for the public's safety. But Rochester appealed to Sioux City's police captain, Pete Groetken, for clemency. 

"I think it will be very difficult for me to reverse a decision by [animal control] unless there was strong evidence that there was a need for the animal to protect the owner's property," Groetken told the Sioux City Journal before making his ruling. The ruling came last week in the form of a certified letter to Rochester: Jake is vicious.

Rochester says he will once again appeal in hopes of saving Jake, this time to a special arbiter appointed by the city manager. In an interview with the Journal, he stressed that even the victim of the attack, who has declined to be named, "doesn't want anything to happen to Jake. He does not want him put down."

Since Groetken made his decision, Sioux City pit bull owners have urged officials to repeal the ban, in part because Rochester's case has shown that pits aren't the only breed capable of biting people. (The ban allowed those who already owned pit bulls to keep their dogs, provided they complied with other regulations, such as mandatory registration, but forbids future pit bull ownership in the city.) 

-- Lindsay Barnett

Photo: A pit bull stands in a cage at the L.A. County animal shelter in Carson. Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

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