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Despite pit bull ban, man reunited with service dog

A disabled former police officer is getting his service dog back. A federal judge ruled Wednesday in favor of allowing Snickers, a pit bull mix, to be reunited with his owner in Aurelia, Iowa, regardless of the town's ban on pit bulls.
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A disabled former Chicago police officer has gotten his service dog back.

A federal judge in Iowa ruled Wednesday in favor of an injunction to allow Snickers, a pit bull mix, to be reunited with owner James Sak immediately.

Earlier this month, Sak, 65, had to relinquish Snickers under a pit bull ban in Aurelia, Iowa. After a city council vote, Sak was asked Dec. 14 to remove the dog from town, and Snickers was sent to a boarding facility outside Aurelia.

The two were reunited Wednesday afternoon.

"Today I got my peace of mind back," Sak said. "I hope that nobody else has to go through what we went through."

Story: Pit bull ban separates disabled man, service dog

Sak suffered a stroke in 2008 that left him confined to a wheelchair and unable to use the right side of his body. He was paired at the University of Illinois Medical Center in Chicago with Snickers, who helps him walk, balance and call for help in an emergency, he said.

Sak and his wife, Peggy Leifer, moved from Chicago to Iowa last month to live closer to sick family. After Snickers' removal, Leifer said she couldn't leave her husband alone.

The couple filed a motion for injunction, granted Wednesday during a two-hour hearing in Sioux City.

Kim Wolf, a community engagement specialist for the Animal Farm Foundation helping Sak with the case under the Americans with Disabilities Act, said numerous people came out to support Sak and Snickers, including strangers who drove hours to be there.

"Animal Farm Foundation is thrilled that Officer Sak will be reunited with his service dog, Snickers, and his safety will no longer be compromised," Wolf said. "This case is a sad example of what happens when cities discriminate against dogs based on breed or appearance."

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The city now has the opportunity to appeal the motion. Wolf said they're prepared to fight it.

"We will continue to stand by Officer Sak and Snickers regardless of how far they go. We're behind them the whole way."