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City deals with another dog issue

By Staff | Jul 20, 2017

Diesel the dog

At Monday’s city council meeting, Brent Kottke of Estherville, dressed in his U.S. Marine Corps uniform, addressed the city council. Corporal Kottke and his girlfriend, Kayleigh White, are appealing the decision of Estherville Police Chief Brett Shatto to ban their 10-month-old Labrador mix, Diesel, from the city.

Diesel’s infraction: barking. Kottke received a citation for dog barking from Captain Paul Budach on June 5 after a neighbor called in the noise. Kottke and White were not home at the time, but a few hours later, Budach caught up with them to issue the citation. At that time, Budach saw the dog and identified him as a pit bull mix based on his big, wide head.

Kottke said of the citation, “I understood. I praised the officers for doing their job. Diesel is a dog. He barks.”

Kottke and White paid $147.75 in fines, costs, and a surcharge for the barking violation, the only violation relating to Diesel.

Estherville City Code bans pit bulls, certain related breeds, and pit bull mixes from the city, and the standard for identifying the pit bull type dogs is identification as the breed by a police officer.

Kottke and White have not been in Estherville long and may not stay. Kottke and White are raising an eight-year old-daughter and are the parents of a nearly two-month-old. White said she is on maternity leave, so they don’t have the funds to relocate right now, but they are looking for jobs in Minnesota where Kottke’s family resides.

White said, “We enjoy living in Estherville. I like my friends and my job. I like my child in your schools. But we’re not going to give up a member of our family, [Kottke’s] help to stay. We will move away if that’s what it takes.”

At the time Kottke discussed the issue with Estherville Police Chief Brett Shatto, Kottke had his eight-year-old daughter come out and requested that Shatto explain the ordinance to the child, including the part that meant Diesel had to leave town. The child shook her head that she understood.

“He’s making me look like the bad guy,” Shatto said. Kottke and White maintain that Diesel is a Labrador mix, and not a Pit Bull Mix. However, Kottke identified Diesel as a Pit Bull more than once on his social media accounts, and said while he is familiar with Diesel’s mother, the friend from whom he purchased Diesel did not identify the father.

A veterinarian’s chart from Estherville Veterinary lists Diesel as a Retriever/Lab/Mix. However, council member Julie Clark said, “I have dogs, too, and when I take them to the vet, they ask what kind of dog it is.”

Clark further stated that she can see Kottke’s back yard from her own, and when she has seen Diesel, she thought he was a Pit Bull.

As we reported in the case of Andrew Tate’s dogs, identifying a dog’s breed by sight is problematic. A joint study by the veterinary schools of University of Florida and Michigan State’s schools of veterinary medicine, put sixteen experienced animal shelter workers to the test of identifying pit bulls, mixes, and related breeds like American Straffordshire terriers, then verified (or not) based on the individual dogs’ DNA profiles.

This case is different from Tate’s case because Kottke and White are asserting that Diesel the dog is a Lab mix and not a pit bull.

In the study, dogs with pit bull heritage were identified only 33 to 75 percent of the time, while dogs lacking any genetic evidence of relevant breeds were labeled as pit bull type dogs from 0 to 48 percent of the time.

The research report said, “A dog’s physical appearance cannot tell observers anything about its behavior. Even dogs of similar appearance and the same breed often have diverse behavioral traits in the same way that human siblings often have very different personalities.”

Researchers said while pet dog DNA analysis is available, and could resolve certain issues of local bans, “A dog’s physical appearance cannot tell observers anything about its behavior. Even dogs of a similar appearance and the same breed often have diverse behavioral traits in the same way that human siblings often have very different personalities.”

Researchers further said, “public safety would be better served by reducing risk factors for dog bites such as supervising children, recognizing canine body language, avoiding an unfamiliar dog in its territory, neutering dogs, and raising puppies to be social companions.”

Kottke presented official documentation from the Veterans Administration of his health conditions, which make an emotional support animal necessary, as well as information about the FHA’s assertion that a local breed ban does not apply to people with disabilities and medical conditions who have a support animal with them in a housing unit. Kottke said of his military service, “I saw things no one in this room could imagine.”

Council member Gene Haukoos pointed out he was one of three Vietnam veterans on the council, and they all had also seen things.

Kottke said Diesel would be allowed to accompany him on an airline flight.

Shatto pointed out, “We are not renting Kottke a home nor putting him on a plane. This ordinance has been in place since 1989.”

City attorney Jennifer Bennett Finn said, as she did in the Tate case, that emotional support animals, unlike service animals, are not trained to perform a specific task that alleviates the barriers of the health condition or disability of the person certified to have the animal.

The council unanimously upheld Chief Shatto’s application of the city ordinance, and the case moves to district court if Kottke and White file a petition within three days.