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

August 4, 2009 |  3:06 pm

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!

RELATED:
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.

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