WARNING: Images may be disturbing
In March, Chuck Bickel’s dog Pinky escaped from his house and got into a fight with the neighbor’s cat, Rebel.
The cat needed over 30 staples in order to recover.
Bickel says in almost eight years nothing like this has ever happened.
“She was fun to play with and took her on trips to the lake and went running with her and walking and all kinds of fun stuff,” said Bickel.
Now she may have to be put down.
The city had designated the dog as a Pit Bull, one of the “High Risk” breeds the city has special regulations for.
Sergeant James Butler, the city’s Chief Humane Officer says by law the severity of the cat’s injuries made it necessary for Pinky to be euthanized. He says breed has nothing to do with it.
“If breed was never listed on the report it wouldn’t offend me at all. My job is to look at the facts of the case,” said Butler.
Breed does affect how the city classifies animals, and how many chances they can get.
Staffordshire Terriers, American Pit Bull Terriers and American Staffordshire Terriers are all designated “High Risk”, meaning they only need one violent incident to be labeled dangerous and be put down.
Other dogs, like labs, have the opportunity to be elevated to “High Risk” before being labeled as dangerous and destroyed; though, if the incident is serious enough, they can also skip the “High Risk” designation and go straight to “dangerous”.
Bickel has not seen his dog since surrendering it to the city. He has since sold Pinky to Diann Helmers; Helmers runs a shelter and has taken over the appeal process to spare the dog.
She argues that because no one saw the incident, there is no way to tell for sure if the dog is responsible for the cat’s injuries.
According to the case report, the cat’s owner saw Pinky carrying the cat in its mouth before yelling at Pinky to drop the cat. The case report goes on to say the cat then ran up the tree and stayed there for an hour.
Pinky’s owner speculated the cat could have further injured itself from running up the tree or running down.
Helmer also argues Pinky was labeled a Pit Bull based on looks alone.
“There’s no proof of what breed she is. When she was 15 pounds and under six months old they decided she was a Pit Bull and that’s totally unfair right there” said Helmers.
The way the law is written, a dog with the majority of characteristics of one of the high risk breeds can be designated as “High Risk”.
The city of Des Moines allows residents to own Pit Bulls and other animals that are considered high risk, but with restrictions.
They have to be licensed with the city, they have to have tags showing they’re up to date on rabies shots, and the owner needs to carry a $100,000 insurance policy for their dog.
Police say in this case the dog’s license hadn’t been renewed with the city, it was not wearing tags that showed it was up to date on its rabies vaccinations, and Bickel hadn’t had the insurance since 2010.
Bickel has argued that fact and says he did carry the insurance.
The case was originally ruled in favor of the city, but because of a clerical error the case was re-heard on Tuesday.
The judge will rule on the hearing later this month