SIOUX CITY -- Wiggles the Shih Tzu got a reprieve from the death chamber when a police hearing officer overruled his designation as a vicious animal for biting a neighbor girl.

This was one of the first hearings held under the new rules established by the City Council following a district judge's ruling on other vicious dog cases in January.

Lt. Patrick McCann, the hearing officer, issued his decision earlier today. According to his report, Animal Control officers took Wiggles into custody at his owner's Jennings Street home on Jan. 31 after receiving a report he had bitten a 6-year-old girl. The girl was treated at a Sioux City hospital for unspecified injuries.

Animal Control officers reported that Wiggles' owner, Josh Blanford, had not obtained a city pet license nor did he have a rabies tag attached to the dog's collar, as required by city ordinance. Blanford will get Wiggles back from animal control's shelter once her shows proof of the rabies vaccination and buys that pet license.

After Blanford appealed the vicious designation, McCann heard the case this past Tuesday. With the stricter hearing requirements, McCann noted he could take other factors into consideration other than just the fact an animal bit some one.

"In this case, it is appropriate to consider the prior acts of provocation -- teasing of the animal by the juvenile brother in the victim's presence -- and the reasonable efforts of the owner to secure the subject animal on his property.":He said Blanford had fenced the yard and locked the gates. There were no prior reports of Wiggles running at large.

"I also find that the large accumulation of drifted snow making it possible for the subject animal to escape as an extenuating circumstance."

In addition, McCann noted the following:

-- It is up to either side to make sure that their witnesses appear at the hearing.

-- The rules do not specify the type of documentation of injury that is required. The girl's parents did not provide medical reports. In future cases, McCann said where such documentation exists, there should be an effort to obtain that information.

-- While photographs are acceptable to document an injury he said he was "greatly troubled by the testimony that Animal Control officers took photographs on a cell phone, which they testified were relied upon in making their determination that the subject animal was vicious. However, those photographs were not produced to the legal department or to the owner of the animal prior to the hearing despite being requested."

He put Animal Control on notice that future noncompliance with the full disclosure requirements will result in dismissing the case.


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