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Council supports chief in banning Tate’s American Bullys

May 5, 2017
Amy H. Peterson - Staff Writer ( , Estherville News

After hearing from Andrew Tate and police chief Brett Shatto, the Estherville City Council voted unanimously on Monday against Tate's appeal to keep his American Bully dogs in town due to their status as emotional support animals.

At Monday meeting, Tate presented two physicians' notes, one for himself and one for his fiance Ines, who was unable to attend. The notes, from physician's assistant Chelsea Richardson of Avera Holy Family Clinic, stated that she was treating the couple for anxiety, and that in her opinion the dogs were a necessity for their health.

Police chief Brett Shatto presented a timeline that went back a year with the police department's interactions with Tate and the dogs.

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Tate addressed two incidents relating to his dogs fighting with other dogs. For the first one, a pit bull with a different owner got off its leash, followed Tate's dog, who was on leash, into Tate's home. Achilles fought the other dog, defending Tate and his property.

Shatto said, "We have had two other removals of pit bulls since this case began. We confronted the owners, and they voluntarily removed their animals from the city."

Council member Dave Seylar said, "You didn't have the dogs when you came here. Why would you choose a pit bull type dog as a service or assistive dog?"

Tate said, "I strongly apologize. The incidents in question were my fault, never the dogs' fault." Tate said he was still scheduled to take the dogs to Minneapolis for boarding and training. To this point, Tate and his fiance take the dogs to training once per week and work on assigned tasks at home throughout the week. With ramped up training, the dogs would board for four weeks and their humans would visit once per week to learn what the dogs learned.

It doesn't matter under the law, according to city attorney Jennifer Bennett Finn. "Emotional support or assistive animals do serve a purpose of helping people with real, doctor-verified medical conditions like the two of you have. There are psychiatric service dogs, and they are trained for a specific task or to do some specific action to treat a symptom of a medical condition." Bennett Finn said an example would be if the dogs were trained to sense or predict an anxiety attack and perform a task that would divert or prevent the attack.

Council member Brandon Carlin said, "I have every empathy with anxiety."

Carlin said his son, adopted from foster care, experiences anxiety attacks. "Sometimes there's a trigger and there's nothing you can do," Carlin said.

Carlin emphasized, "But the law is the law, I don't understand what's driving these animals staying here after they got in trouble."

Bennett Finn said, "Part B of the ordinance says a dog can be deemed vicious if the chief of police, and the city council on appeal, determines it is vicious."

Council member Roger Guge said, "If I'm out walking with my grandchildren and I see a pit bull type dog, I will cross the street to avoid coming into contact with them. I shouldn't have to change my route to accommodate these animals. That's why we have the ordinance. The dog that was attacked could have been a child instead. Our residents can't have that."

The council voted unanimously to uphold the ordinance banning pit bull type dogs in Tate's case, despite his documentation of medical condition. Shatto explained, "We cannot just take the dogs until [Tate's] due process is finished. Once that's finished, we would take them to the Northwest Iowa Humane Society until there is a documented plan to move them out of town. In the worst case, they'd be euthanized."

Seylar asked Tate, "So you're not going to stay in Estherville?"

Tate said, "No. Definitely no."

Tate's final available appeal is to the district court. Tate, his fiance and the dogs are planning to move out of Estherville and return to California when their lease is up at the end of July. Tate graduates from Iowa Lakes Community College next week. Bennett Finn suggested that after the four weeks of training and boarding, there would be only a few weeks before Tate and his household leave the state, during which the dogs could be boarded outside the city.

"Thank you all for your time," Tate said.



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