Iowa high court upholds Des Moines dangerous pet ordinance

March 1, 2019 GMT

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The Iowa Supreme Court restored a Des Moines vicious dog ordinance on Friday that an appeals court had found to be unconstitutionally vague.

The justices voted 3-3, upholding an initial, district court ruling that went in favor of the city.

The case involved a mixed breed dog named Pinky and a neighbor’s cat named Rebel, which were both allowed outside without restraints and fought. Both animals survived.

City officials blamed Pinky and she was taken away from her owner in March 2016 after the city’s chief humane officer concluded she exhibited “vicious propensities” under the city’s dangerous animal ordinance.


She was initially to be quarantined for a week but a day before release the city chose to declare her a dangerous dog and notified owner Dianna Helmers of plans keep her. She remained held without access to visits from her family for nearly two years. Pinky was released to Helmers last April when the Iowa Court of Appeals ruled 3-2 that the city’s definition of a dangerous dog was too vague.

The state Supreme Court’s order offered no details of the court’s deliberation. It simply stated that three justices would affirm the district court ruling and three would reverse it and pointing out that in such cases, the district court’s ruling stands.

Pinky has been living at Helmers’ pet rescue facility near Reinbeck, about 90 miles northeast of Des Moines.

Helmers’ attorney, Jamie Hunter said the city can seek custody of Pinky again, although the dog is now 11 years old and at the upper end of her life expectancy.

City officials said in a statement Friday they were talking with Helmers about allowing Pinky to remain with her if terms can be reached “that protect the dog and the public.”

City Manager Scott Sanders said in the statement that he never intended to euthanize the dog and if an agreement cannot be reached to keep her with Helmers, the city will pay to have Pinky adopted out of state.

Hunter, who has other court challenges to the city’s animal ordinance pending in court, said it continues to be an ongoing issue for dog owners.

“The best way to address that is the city can amend its ordinance to make it clear and fairer for its residents so we’re not constantly litigating it,” she said.


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