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Iowa Town Won’t Let Retired Chicago Cop Keep Service Dog

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Jim And Peggy Sak

Retired Chicago Police Officer Jim Sak and his wife, Peggy, got married in 2009 at the University of Illinois at Chicago Medical Center. (Credit: CBS)

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AURELIA, Iowa (CBS) — A battle is likely to end up in court between a small Iowa town and a retired Chicago Police officer, over his service dog.

As WBBM Newsradio’s Regine Schlesinger reports, Jim Sak, 65, suffered a debilitating stroke in 2008 that left him in a wheelchair. His wife, Peggy, says his service dog, Snickers, has been a godsend.

“Jim depends on that dog for everything,” Peggy Sak said.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Regine Schlesinger reports

But after the couple moved to her home town of Aurelia, Iowa, last year, the Town Council ordered them to get rid of Snickers, who is part pit bull. Aurelia has a ban on the breed.

The Town Council refused to make an exception for the Saks, and since then, they have had to keep Snickers in a kennel outside of town.

“We’re lost without him around,” Peggy Sak said. “Jim is a lot more stoic than I am; it has to do with his training, I think, as a police officer. But we’re just flummoxed by the whole thing.”

The Animal Farm Foundation has hired an attorney who plans to fight the town. Federal law guarantees people with disabilities the right to service dogs, regardless of breed.

Aurelia outlawed pit bulls in 2008, after one bit a meter reader. But that does not mean the town can steamroll over rights guaranteed by federal law, the Animal Farm Foundation.

“The Department does not believe that it is either appropriate or consistent with the (Americans with Disabilities Act) to defer to local laws that prohibit certain breeds of dogs based on local concerns that these breeds may have a history of unprovoked aggression or attacks,” Animal Farm quoted the U.S. Department of Justice. “Such deference would have the effect of limiting the rights of persons with disabilities under the ADA who use certain service animals based on where they live rather than on whether the use of a particular animal poses a direct threat to the health and safety of others.”

The Animal Farm Foundation is paying to board Snickers at the kennel.

The ordeal has been a blow to Jim and Peggy Sak, who got married at the University of Illinois at Chicago Medical Center in 2009.

“It’s just been horrible – trying to keep Jim’s spirits up, which is hard to do while I’m crying,” Peggy Sak said.

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