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Council chooses Hood for Ward 1

Penalty changes are discussed

January 8, 2018
Amy H. Peterson - Staff Writer ( , Estherville News

On the nomination of Ward 2 council member Julie Clark, the Estherville City council voted 5-1 to select Cindy Hood to fill the Ward 1 vacancy on the council. Mayor Kenny Billings immediately swore in Hood and she took her seat at the council table for the remainder of Tuesday night's city council meeting.

Estherville city administrator Penny Clayton told Shannon Lehmkuhl, who also submitted a letter of interest for the position, "We hope you will remain active in the community, and when a vacancy comes up, you will consider applying for the appointment or running for the office."

Standard city penalties

Article Photos

The council heard from citizens about the change in standard penalty approved by the council at its Dec. 18 meeting. At that meeting, the council clarified certain city code violations that could result in a $625 fine and potentially, in the responding officer's discretion, an arrest. The fine and up to 30 days jail is a potential penalty if convicted.

City attorney Jennifer Bennett Finn clarified the intent of amending the ordinance and also stated, "I have never recommended jail time for a simple misdemeanor."

Police Chief Brent Shatto said the procedure for removing an animal adjudicated as dangerous is the same as it's always been.

The citizen receives a letter ordering the animal's removal. The citizen has a right to a hearing before the police chief. Shatto said many cases resulted in the animal being rehomed outside the city. Most citizens are not criminally charged.

Shatto said, "Criminal charges would come if the person voluntarily moved the animal to, say, a home in Wallingford, and then the animal is back in town."

Shatto said the department makes every effort to work with the owner to get the animal into a new home. If the animal is impounded, it may be transported to the Northwest Iowa Humane Society in Milford in hopes of having it adopted to a new home in a place where it's allowed to live. Only after all avenues are exhausted might the animal be euthanized, Shatto said.

Brent Kottke and Kayleigh White, owners of Diesel, the dog, whose life was spared and status upgraded to that of any other dog in Estherville after a settlement between the City and Kottke, addressed the council, requesting that the council act on its statement that they would take another look at the dangerous animal ordinance.

White passed out a booklet she had prepared, which included a list of organizations that do not endorse breed-specific legislation.

The booklet also includes a statement from Dr. Kristopher Irizarry, PhD, advisor to the National Canine Research Council. Irizarry, writing against breed-specific legislation, stated, "It is my professional opinion that this group of dogs [pit-bull type] must be the most genetically diverse dog breed on the planetI think these arguments to 'protect society' from dangerous dogs are flawed because the inherent assumption in these laws is thatcharacteristics in dogs correlate with certain behaviors."

In addition to presenting evidence about breed-specific legislation, White told some of her story of coming to Estherville about two and one-half years ago.

White said she relocated her daughter to live with relatives in Estherville when she fell on hard times.

"As I prepared my five year old for the scary, life-changing trip of moving halfway across the country to live with people she only barely knew, without me, I told her stories to comfort her," White said.

White said she told her daughter stories of hope, of making friends, giving her a sense that she could belong there. White took steps to get her life together, then sold most of her belongings, packed what was left, and followed her daughter to Estherville.

"For a time, we were happy," White said.

White moved to Estherville and reunited with her daughter. White met Kottke, and they found a home and had a child. White found Diesel as a special gift for Kottke.

"I fell in love instantly," White said.

White said Diesel helps Kottke sleep at night. Eventually Kottke went to the Veteran's administration to certify Diesel as an emotional support animal.

White's booklet also listed the states that prohibit the use of breed-specific legislation, including the section of each state code setting out the prohibition.

"Our close neighbor of Minnesota happens to be one of them. Iowa itself is edging closer to adhering to this mindset," White said.

White also presented a financial calculator from John Dunham & Associates for Best Friends Animal Society.

The calculator estimated the cost of breed-specific legislation in Estherville.

Enforcement: $5,833

Kenneling: $1,840

DNA Testing: $1,191

Legal fees: $1,142

Euthanasia: $223

TOTAL: $10,229

This did not include over $20,000 to settle the lawsuit with Kottke.

Will Breck, another veteran, also addressed the council, stating, "All of us who have served deal with trauma in one way or another. Those who haven't may never understand how one animal can make a difference."

Breck added, "We're all evolving, and I hope it's to reach a point of deciding what is really safe and responsible."

Estherville resident Matthew Ingvall addressed the council about a lesson he learned, which was the importance of adapting. Ingvall said, "I'd like to see positive change in Estherville."

Kottke said, "I'm here to do a good thing for everyone else in the town." Acknowledging that the conflict with the city was settled and over, Kottke said, "It's a costly and ineffective witch hunt [to ban breeds from town]. It's time to change the law for the good of the community."

Kottke urged the council members to open their minds.

New city council member Hood said, "None of the people here is of a closed mindset. I have seen great things with this council." Hood urged Kottke and White to, "keep in mind the council is here for all of the city and not just a person who owns a dog."

Just before adjourning, Mayor Billings said, "We will review the ordinance."



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