Wiggles remains behind bars
Wiggles the shih tzu is behind bars again at Animal Control, after biting a girl on the arm. The dog has been deemed vicious and remains quarantined, awaiting trial.

SIOUX CITY -- Wiggles the shih tzu is back behind bars at Sioux City Animal Control for biting another girl.

Wiggles earned a reprieve in February when a police hearing officer overruled a designation labeling the dog a vicious animal for biting a neighbor girl.

The little dog's freedom, however, didn't last long. On Tuesday, Wiggles was taken back into custody after an investigation determined that the dog was "vicious."

Sioux City Police Capt. Marti Reilly said police were notified Tuesday that Wiggles bit a girl on the arm Monday at his owner's Jennings Street home. Owner Josh Blanford said it happened on Monday, when his fiancee's niece and her sister were sitting on the couch with the dog.

"(She) and her sister were picking the dog up and they were trying to determine if it was a boy or a girl," he said.

The dog nipped the girl, presumably because he didn't like being touched in that way, Blanford said. Although he hadn't personally seen the wound, Blanford said the girl's family didn't think it was serious enough to require a trip to the hospital and had no intentions of reporting it to police.

Animal Control officers determined that the dog did bite without provocation.

"We followed the guidelines of the law and enforced it to our fullest capabilities," said Animal Control owner Cindy Rarrat.

Rarrat declined to comment further about the incident Thursday as not to jeopardize the high profile case.

City code states that a vicious animal means and includes any animal that without provocation bites or harms one or more people and the bite or harm causes bleeding or noticeable and documented injury to the victim.

Blanford said the only reason Sioux City Animal Control or the police are involved in the incident is because the girl's elementary school teacher saw her scab and reported the injury to authorities.

He said the girl's family has no intention of testifying at an as-of-yet-unscheduled vicious dog hearing. It's Blanford's interpretation of city code if the victim doesn't show up at the hearing Wiggles will go free again.

"If (the victims) do not show up to the hearing, then they have to drop the whole thing," he said. "The city's just going to spend thousands of dollars, again, on their lawyers getting this thing ready, and they're just going to have to drop the case because the victim won't be there to testify."

He claimed officials at Sioux City Animal Control have a vendetta against him for Wiggles' last run-in with the law. When animal control officers came to take the dog into custody, Blanford said he ordered them off his property until they got a warrant.

Officers returned with a warrant and impounded the dog, Reilly said.

In February, Sioux City Police Lt. Patrick McCann, the hearing officer, overturned a vicious designation Wiggles earned for biting a 6-year-old girl on Jan. 31.

McCann took into consideration the dog may have been teased by the girl's brother on previous occasions and efforts Blanford took to secure Wiggles in his yard. He noted the girl's parents did not submit medical reports detailing her injury. He also took issue with testimony of Animal Control officers who documented the injury with pictures on their cell phones, but did not produce the pictures to the city's legal department or Blanford.

It was one of the first hearings held under new rules established by Sioux City City Council after District Court Judge John Ackerman overturned six vicious dog cases in January, saying the animals' owners rights to due-process had been violated.

In the wake of Ackerman's ruling, the City Council established stricter hearing requirements for vicious animals.

The City Council had revamped the vicious animal ordinance in 2008, declaring that if an animal bites and is declared vicious, that pet must be euthanized.

-- Journal reporter Molly Montag contributed to this report.

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