ARL Statement RE: Des Moines Court Case, Canine 'Diesel'

posted on Wednesday, August 8, 2018 in News


Following the conclusion of extensive legal proceedings, including an administrative hearing, several rulings by the Iowa District Court for Polk County, and an appeal to the Iowa Supreme Court, the City of Des Moines directed the ARL to humanely euthanize Diesel on August 2, 2018, pursuant to the Des Moines City Code regarding "dangerous animals."

During and after the legal proceedings, intentionally inaccurate information has been conveyed regarding the actual circumstances of this case, the legal issues involved, and the ARL's role in this matter. The following information is directly from the public record in the lawsuit filed by Diesel's former owner, Kurt Fahrney, and Jaysen McCleary of Bela Animal Legal Defense and Rescue, Polk County Case No. EQCE 079408

On September 28, 2015, Diesel was involved in a bite incident resulting in a laceration to the neck of a four-year old deaf and autistic boy. The laceration required medical treatment and the boy was also required to receive rabies shots because Diesel did not have a current rabies vaccination when the bite incident occurred, in violation of the Des Moines City Code and Iowa Code Chapter 351. Diesel was initially placed in a 10 day rabies quarantine at the ARL following the bite incident, as required by the City Code and Iowa Code Chapter 351.

On September 30, 2015, the Chief Humane Officer for the City of Des Moines, Sgt. James Butler, declared Diesel a "dangerous animal" under City Code Section 18-196. As a result of the "dangerous animal" declaration, Diesel was placed into long term impoundment at the ARL, as required by City Code, where he remained until the recent conclusion of the legal proceedings. Diesel's former owner, Mr. Fahrney, filed a handwritten appeal with the City Clerk on October 5, 2015. In it, Mr. Fahrney referred to "the bite," claimed that Diesel had been provoked and "was surprised by the boy" and "reacted in a defensive manner feeling threatened," but that Diesel "let go immediately when I told him 'no.'" He also stated that Diesel had "never bitten before."

Fahrney Appeal

An administrative hearing was held on December 1, 2015. The ARL was not a party to the administrative hearing. On December 10, 2015, the Administrative Law Judge issued a ruling upholding the "dangerous dog" declaration. On December 28, 2015, Mr. Fahrney requested judicial review of the ALJ's ruling by filing a Petition for Writ of Certiorari in the Iowa District Court for Polk County. Mr. Fahrney's lawsuit also asserted various claims against the City of Des Moines and the ARL. During the legal proceedings, Mr. Fahrney transferred ownership of Diesel to Mr. McCleary and Bela Animal Legal Defense and Rescue and it joined the lawsuit as a Plaintiff. The District Court entered several rulings in late 2016 upholding the "dangerous animal" declaration by the City of Des Moines and dismissing all of the claims asserted against the City of Des Moines and the ARL, concluding that they lacked any merit. The Plaintiffs appealed to the Iowa Supreme Court, but the appeal was dismissed due to Plaintiffs' counsel's failure to prosecute it.

On July 31, 2018, the District Court entered an Order denying several motions by Plaintiffs and confirming that the final judgment entered by the District Court in late 2016 was the "final word," due to the dismissal of the appeal. The City subsequently directed the ARL to proceed with the humane euthanization of Diesel, pursuant to the City Code.

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 ALJ and the District Court. A recent decision by the Iowa Court of Appeals regarding another dog, Pinky, that was declared a "dangerous animal" by the City of Des Moines, does not apply to Diesel. Accusations that Diesel did not receive proper care during rabies quarantine and long term impoundment at the ARL are also inaccurate. Diesel was in poor condition when he arrived at the ARL and received excellent care during the lengthy legal proceedings, including veterinary care and an enrichment program for dogs placed in long term impoundment.