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Sioux City councilman's Labrador stolen from animal shelter while on countdown to be euthanized

Rochester We told you last month about the strange case of Jake, a Labrador retriever owned by Sioux City, Iowa, City Councilman Aaron Rochester (at left). 

Rochester campaigned successfully to ban pit bulls in Sioux City last year based on his assertion that the breed is vicious and likely to attack people.  The shoe was on the other foot when Jake himself attacked a neighbor who was walking past Rochester's home; the local animal control department deemed Jake "vicious," a label that mandates euthanasia.

Rochester appealed to Sioux City's police captain, Pete Groetken, asking him to step in and grant clemency to the dog.  Rochester has said he believes Jake was trying to protect his young daughter and her friend, who were playing nearby, when he attacked the neighbor.  (The bite required five stitches; even so, Rochester maintained that the neighbor, who chose to remain anonymous, didn't want Jake to be euthanized.)  But, after considering the case, Groetken refused to overturn the animal control officers' decision.  

Rochester appealed once again, this time to a special arbiter appointed by the city manager, in hopes of sparing Jake from euthanasia.  But the second appeal also proved futile; the arbiter, a former police captain, reaffirmed the original verdict.  This time, Rochester said he would stop fighting the city and accept Jake's death sentence.  Things looked bleak for Jake; pending the end of a 30-day window during which Rochester technically could have appealed again, the dog was quartered at a Sioux City animal shelter.

Until Sunday.

An animal control officer reported a break-in at the animal shelter where Jake was being held on Sunday, according to the Sioux City Journal.  At feeding time, Jake had come up missing. It's believed that a dog thief or thieves cut through a chain that secured a gate to enter the shelter facility, then cut a chain-link fence surrounding the kennel where Jake was confined, so he could be removed. No shelter staff witnessed the burglary.  No other animals were taken from the shelter.

Police say they have no suspects in the theft; Rochester maintains that he was not involved and doesn't know who was.  "Nobody has sent me an e-mail or dropped me a letter or gave me a phone call saying, 'Hey, Jake's safe so don't worry about it,' " he told the Associated Press.

At a city council meeting Monday, members of the public voiced their opposition to the ordinance that requires dogs deemed vicious to be euthanized; one resident told city officials that their refusal to amend the ordinance had led directly to the theft of Rochester's dog.  For his part, Rochester has said he'll consider working to amend Sioux City's vicious-dog legislation in the future.

Should a suspect be arrested in Jake's disappearance, he or she would be charged with either second- or third-degree burglary, Groetken told the Journal.  But, an animal control official said, dogs have been stolen from the shelter before but she wasn't aware of any cases in which the thief had been caught.  And since Jake is not microchipped and is a member of a common dog breed, it would be difficult to identify him should he end up in another shelter or rescue facility.

Thanks to readers Adiopink, David C. and Joe Frisbie for alerting us to this odd development.  The plot thickens!

Sioux City councilman learns the hard way that pit bulls aren't the only dogs that bite people
Iowa politician who pushed for pit bull ban seeks mercy for his Labrador that bit a neighbor
Lancaster approves mandatory sterilization of pit bulls and Rottweilers

-- Lindsay Barnett

Photo: Screen shot of Aaron Rochester from a 2007 campaign video uploaded to Rochester's YouTube account.

Comments () | Archives (12)

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My understanding is they spotted Jake heading north only miles from the Canadian border.

G Tonic

What this story lacks: 1) Information on what criteria are used to classify a dog as "vicious," 2) Who makes the determination, 3) How many dogs have been so classified and 4) How many dogs have been "euthanized" [a nice avoidance of the word "killed"] under these procedures in Sioux City in the past few years.

This would give the story some relevance and allow the reader to judge whether this was a good or bad ordinance.

As it is, it's mostly sensationalism.

Another stupid man picking on pitbulls and now he would allow his dog to be killed. With people like him, it is of no wonder why we are considered one of the dumbest of the industrialized nations.
Hope the dog lives a long live.

Rochester's reaction, if he's not involved, is odd at best. He certainly seems to feel the theft of his dog was done for his benefit.

I think this is another example of a politician thinking the rules for him are different from the rules for others. I would tend to concur that the dog will not be found, although I'm betting there's a Sioux City night shift animal control officer who has a nice new flat screen TV or maybe a JetSki.

I'm happy for the dog, if he lands someplace that has a fence, and he gets some training. But I'd be willing to bet this brush with the death of his beloved pet hasn't softened Councilman Rochester's heart one bit when it comes to completely innocent Pit Bulls. I hope the people of Sioux City can recognize a hypocrite when they see one.

The CIA became aware of his potential. "Jake, you have two choices. Work for us as an international spy and assassin or go back to the kennel to die."

Really nice irony here. How many dogs died because of laws that this so-called councilman approved?

Goodie, goodie for Jake. I pray you will be happy where ever you are.

...and they lived happily ever after.

Will there be updates available for public viewing documented anywhere moving forward. Investigation updates, other Jake sightings with investigation of each sighting documented with attachments of said proof of ownership documentation, etc., etc., etc.?

Ultimately, I wish Jake would be given a pardon for I do agree with popular census that the biting was simply an unfortunate event, bad timing or some other unknown "bad luck" type theory ... But not vicious. However, what I do not wish for, is an end to the investigation of the REAL crimes being swept away from of us and all obvious suspects seated directly in front of us who are getting ready to skip away from us holding hands. Those crimes were not a series of unfortunate events as Jake's biting incident; they were well stategized and obviously not the perfect crimes.

So will it all just disappear now allowing some people to be handed an undeserving "Fairy Tale Ending" while the rest of Sioux City's population will continue to receive no special privileges ... be held according to the laws by the book ... with no leiniency whatsoever?

I am a former Sioux Citian, thankfully, and I can tell you that the city council takes advantage of the law and their power on a regular basis. The police dept. spent lots of tax payer money into a five month long (and counting) investigation involving one non-treating prank phone call made to a councilman calling him gay. They brought in the detectives, subpoenas, and the assistant district attorney for this. If anyone else would of called the police saying that they got a prank call and someone made fun of them and called them gay, the cops would not do anything about it, except maybe laugh.

I was looking to see where the news of the councel mans dog was printed since it is being played off here in Sioux city that someone from far away must have traveled here to rescue the dog. I did not see anything written here in Sioux City about how it could have been the councel man that took the dog, even though it was reported that when the councel man was questioned he replied that he was not worried and the dog was safe where he was. It was nice to see that someone put two and two together. I find it hard to believe that a person with power working so hard to get his dog back (from a law he passed to control others dogs ), and could not do it get it out did not work a deal. Especially knowing where the dog pound is. The dog pound is beside the city storage and city repair shop, where I have almost always seen a cop car driving to or from, especially during the weekend ( on the weekend the police move farther out of the center of the city and patrol more of the exterior parts of the city). Cop cars are going by the pound all the time and it seems to me that there is one at least one going by about one every five minutes. I cannot see how anyone could have cut their way in and not be seen.

I salute the vigilantes who saved Jake from the redneck gluttons at Sioux City hall, and their gestapo animal control. THEIR TYRANNY WILL NEVER STAND!! The Sioux City Council, or "Small-town Death panel", will be crushed by the very mess they created.

I salute the vigilantes who saved Jake from the redneck gluttons at Sioux City hall, and their gestapo animal control. THEIR TYRANNY WILL NEVER STAND!! The Sioux City Council, or "Small-town Death panel", will be crushed by the very mess they created.


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