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Sioux City councilman had sold his condemned Labrador before it was stolen from animal shelter

August 11, 2009 |  3:44 pm

Sioux City councilman Aaron Rochester Sioux City, Iowa, city councilman Aaron Rochester apparently agreed to sell his condemned Labrador retriever, Jake, to a local businessman in the days before Jake was stolen from the animal shelter where he was being held.

The businessman, Lew Weinberg, told the Sioux City Journal that he arranged to buy Jake from Rochester for $1 on July 31.  The idea behind the sale, Weinberg said, was to try to save the dog's life through an appeal to district court. 

Rochester had told local media that he wouldn't continue to pursue the case after two local authorities -- Sioux City's police captain and a special arbiter -- sided with the animal control department, which labeled Jake "vicious" after he attacked a neighbor.  Rochester maintained that Jake was simply trying to protect Rochester's young daughter and a friend, who were playing nearby, from a perceived danger.  But Sioux City's dog rules are hard and fast, and they require that vicious dogs be killed as a matter of public safety.

The irony of the case lies in the fact that Rochester himself successfully lobbied last year to ban pit bulls in the city, alleging that the breed was the one most likely to attack humans.  His position was a decidedly delicate one, then, as he tried to persuade city officials to spare Jake's life. 

"I just felt that quite frankly the dog didn't deserve to be euthanized just because of who his owner was," Weinberg told the Journal of his attempt to buy Jake. "Aaron was kind of in a rough spot with regard to pursuing any correction in the ordinance that he helped develop."  Weinberg, he thought, could pursue avenues Rochester couldn't in his efforts to save the dog.

But before the transaction could be completed, Jake was stolen from the animal control facility where he was awaiting execution on Aug. 2.  No other animals were taken.  Police say they have no suspects in the burglary, which is apparently not the first one the shelter has seen; the facility "has never been adequate enough or secure enough," according to an animal control official.  (A newer, more secure shelter is expected to be complete within the next year.) 

Should the thief be found, he or she could face second- or third-degree burglary charges.  In a similar case, a Wyoming woman was recently sentenced to 45 days in jail for trying to free her dog -- in this case, a pit bull that had been deemed vicious -- from an animal shelter.  But in the Wyoming instance, the break-in attempt caused an alarm to go off, and police arrested the woman after a foot chase.

RELATED:
Iowa politician who pushed for pit bull ban seeks mercy for his Labrador

-- Lindsay Barnett

Photo: A screenshot of Aaron Rochester from a 2007 city council candidate-introduction video.  Credit: SiouxlandCommMedia via YouTube

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