There is a storm of controversy surrounding the killing of a six-year-old pit bull named Diesel by the city of Des Moines, Iowa, although a stay of execution was in place while the case was being appealed. Diesel, a service dog, was held in isolation at the Animal Rescue League of Iowa (ARL) for three years before he was killed on August 3, 2018.
It all started on September 28, 2015 when Diesel and his owner Kurt Fahrney were sitting in the backyard of their home. Five to six kids were present, petting Diesel and talking to Kurt. A four-year-old, autistic neighbor child climbed over the chain link fence that separated the two yards, so he could also pet Diesel. At some point the four-year-old, sustained a laceration to his neck, just above the collar bone. His parents assumed Diesel bit the child and called 911. The child unfortunately does not speak and could not say how he sustained the injury.
The child was taken to Lutheran Hospital where according to section B of the medical report filed, doctors did not think the injury was consistent with a dog bite. The laceration was a completely straight, horizontal line with no puncture wounds or teeth marks. It looked more like it was caused by being sliced by a sharp object. The child was then taken to a children’s hospital for surgery. The trauma surgeon there also stated the injury was not typical of a dog bite.
Although two medical professionals claimed the injury was not consistent with a dog bite, Diesel was seized, impounded and placed in isolation at Animal Rescue League of Iowa. In addition to the two doctors’ statements that the injury was not consistent with a dog bite, further investigation found the broken chain link fence the child crawled over to most likely have been responsible for the one inch cut by his collar bone.
An almost three-year court battle ensued where Attorney Jaysen McCleary, founder of the Bela Animal Legal Defense and Rescue fought to prove that Diesel’s seizure and impound were illegal, and the determination that Diesel was dangerous under the same city ordinance that was found to be unconstitutional in a recent Iowa Court of Appeals case regarding another pit bull named Pinky.
Furthermore, there were no witnesses that saw Diesel bite the child. According to Kurt Fahrney in his testimony, he saw a child approach the dog from behind, but neither Fahrney or anyone else saw Diesel bite anyone. Diesel had no history of aggression and had never bitten a human or an animal. The ARL defended their seizure of Diesel by stating it was not illegal, however, the district court stated the city ordinance requires the chief humane officer to order the dog’s owner to quarantine the dog for ten days in a secure facility. This did not happen.
Another twist in the case occurred during the administrative hearing which found Diesel to be dangerous under the city ordinance. The representatives of the city of Des Moines withheld the report stating the treating doctors at both hospitals did not believe the child’s injury was consistent with a dog bite.
And perhaps the most tragic part of this case is that there was no court order in place to kill Diesel. Actually, just the opposite was stated in multiple district court stay orders which prohibited the City and the ARL from “killing, euthanizing, or harming in any manner [Diesel]” and that the City and ARL were not allowed to destroy Diesel ‘without further order of the court.’”
In the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Iowa, in an order from Judge Vaudt dated December 15, 2018 the following was clearly stated:
“IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED, ADJUDGED AND DECREED that thterms of the court’s prior stay orders of December 30, 2015, September 8, 2016, September 14, 2016, and November 9, 2016, prohibiting Defendants from killing, euthanizing, or harming in any manner Plaintiffs’ dog are AFFIRMED and REMAIN IN FULL FORCE AND EFFECT.”
The court never ordered or authorized Diesel’s destruction. A district court order was entered on July 31,2018 denying pending motions. Attorney Jaysen McCleary had 15 days to ask for reconsideration and thirty days to file an appeal. The July order did not lift the stay or authorize Diesel’s destruction.
Less than 48 hours later, the City, ARL, and their attorneys (Jason Casini and John Haraldson) acted in blatant violation of the stay orders that remained in effect. Because of this order still being in effect when Diesel was destroyed, Fahrney and Bela Animal Legal Defense and Rescue filed an application for rule to show cause, demanding that the City, ARL, and their attorneys be held in contempt for their blatant disregard and violation for the court’s orders preventing Diesel’s destruction.
Due to the negative backlash regarding Diesel’s killing, the ARL issued their own public statement on their Facebook page on August 8, 2018.
“On Sept. 28, 2015, a dog named “Diesel” was involved in a bite incident resulting in a laceration to the neck of a 4-year old deaf and autistic boy. Accusations by the plaintiffs and plaintiffs’ counsel, and some others on social media, that Diesel was an “innocent service dog” who was “illegally” seized by animal control, and that there was “no evidence of a bite,” are simply inaccurate and are directly contrary to the substantial evidence presented during the administrative hearing and district court proceedings and the decisions by the administrative law judge and the district court. You can read the full statement here: www.ARL-Iowa.org/Diesel.”
When the author of this article wrote to ARL asking why Diesel was killed when a stay of execution was in place by Judge Vaudt, their recommendation was to contact Jeff Lester, the City Attorney for Des Moines. An email was sent to Jeff Lester questioning why Diesel was killed. To date no response has been received.
Tragically, the City and ARL’s actions in ending an innocent dog’s life cannot be undone. However, they can and should, be held accountable for their blatant violation of the court’s orders preventing the destruction of Diesel.
Rest in peace Diesel.
In the news yesterday: Man accused of slitting throat of his mom’s dog – read more here.
More news: Bears held captive for decades moving to sanctuary – read more here.
Border collie gets so excited watching herself on TV – watch the adorable video here.
Puppy reunited with mom – watch the heartwarming video here.