Cedar Falls City Council gives go-ahead to euthanize dog | #citycouncil

CEDAR FALLS — The City Council has upheld the decision of Police Chief Mark Howard to euthanize a College Hill couple’s beloved pit bull after it viciously bit five people on different occasions over approximately two years.

Lyann and Chris Western, of the 1400 block of 18th Street, appealed the chief’s decision to put down the 80-pound, brown and white pit bull named Reese because of his belief that the dog is a danger to the public. The council agreed with the chief in a 6-0 vote Thursday during a meeting of the administration committee at the Public Safety Center.  Councilmember Dave Sires was absent.

The City Council met as the administrative committee Thursday at the Public Safety Center to handle an appeal of Police Chief Mark Howard’s decision to euthanize a dog he determined to be dangerous to the public. 

Chris Western noted afterwards, though, “we’re not done.” They plan to appeal to district court. 

“We’re very sad and very disappointed,” said Lyann Western. Her husband muttered, “I was surprised it was unanimous.”

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The latest incident involving the 3 1/2-year-old pet came on Oct. 4 at a relative’s home in the 1300 block of Clark Drive. The dog went after a teenager biking on a sidewalk. Lyann Western was issued an “at-large dog” infraction.

A couple incidents described Thursday involved public safety officers, including one officer who was bitten at the front door of the couple’s home while investigating a suspicious vehicle. The first incident dated back to May 2021.

Reese had already been on a tight leash before the final straw on Oct. 4. Howard previously recommended the dog be euthanized and deferred to counsel’s advice to allow the dog to be released to the family due to certain circumstances and as long as several conditions were fulfilled.

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Chris Western blamed past issues at their residence on the fact that the couple had a doggy door they later got rid of as one condition of the agreement with the city.

He called the dog a “beloved member of the community” and brother to another pit bull named Riley. At least one person in the audience could be heard snickering at that remark.

It’s the third time Howard has ordered a dog be euthanized since taking the reins as the acting chief March 2022 and eventually becoming the head of the city’s police division.

Chapter 6 of city code gives the chief the authority to make the call, clearly not one he enjoys making, and it also outlines the process for appeal under the council’s purview.

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He twice made the recommendation to euthanize Reese.

In the summer of 2022, he made a similar recommendation when a pit bull attacked a Yorkie, leaving it in critical condition. The owner of the Yorkie decide to euthanize her own dog to put it out of its misery. The chief’s decision also was unanimously upheld by the council in August of that year.

Howard says calls of domestic animals attacking other domestic animals are becoming more common. He believes the complaints become frequent with owners now more likely to report the incidents because they “treat their pets like family.”

“I think we’ll see more and more of these cases,” he said of Thursday’s proceedings.

After the committee heard arguments from both sides, reviewed evidence and heard witness testimony in public session, the quasi-judicial body deliberated in closed session as is allowable under state law. The committee discussed the matter for less than a half hour before emerging to take the vote in public.

“These decisions are very difficult,” Councilmember Simon Harding, who chaired the meeting, said afterwards. “No one on the committee took it lightly. They weighed the facts and put a lot thought into their vote.”

At least two councilmembers expressed their sympathies about the decision to the couple afterwards. Harding wanted to share the reason for his vote but ultimately declined out of precaution because of deliberations having taken place in closed session.

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