Allowing pit bull as emotional support animal tabled

City Council
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     In late July, the Monticello City Council held a closed session per a resident’s request concerning her appeal to allow her dog, Stoni, to remain within city limits as her “emotional support animal.”

     After the appeal and additional research on the council members’ time, a decision was placed on the Aug. 20 council meeting agenda.

     Erin Devilbiss and her husband Harold were present at the council meeting. Erin previously supplied the council with a letter from her doctor prescribing her with the need to have an emotional support dog to help with her mental health situation.

     In 2006, the City of Monticello passed a pit bull ban. Erin and her husband have lived in Monticello since 2000. They adopted Stoni in 2010 from Dubuque, not knowing she had any trace of pit bull in her. However, after a neighbor complained, not because Stoni had done something wrong, the issue was brought to the council’s attention via the police department.

     Mayor Brian Wolken commented that he is quite torn with this particular decision.

     “On the one hand, if we allow one (emotional support pit bull) it could start a windfall of pit bulls being claimed as emotional support animals,” said Wolken. “But Erin went through the right steps. And by allowing this, we’re taking care of one of our own members of the community.”

     Council member Johnny Russ asked if there was a way to allow emotional support dogs, even of those breeds that are banned. “It’s not easy to get an emotional support recommendation,” he said. “You have to be under (the care of) your doctor for a certain amount of time.”

     Council member Chris Lux said she was also undecided. “I understand the person with an emotional attachment and how the dogs helps out,” she said. “It’s tough as a city and a council person to say she has to give the dog up. It’s a sad burden being put on us. If we force them to take their dog away, can we live with that?”

     Both Council members Butch Pratt and Dave Goedken encouraged the Devilbisses to have their dog DNA tested to determine if there was any pit bull in the dog to begin with. If the test proved wrong, there wouldn’t be an issue at all.

     Goedken said many insurance companies refuse to insure pit bulls; however, Harold said they have found two insurance firms willing to insure them in Monticello, Iowa.

     Police Chief Britt Smith said if the council chose to allow a pit bull as an emotional support dog, certain conditions would need to be in place to limit the number of variances requested.

     “She is so important to me,” pled Erin. “We shouldn’t discriminate against people; dogs are the same way. It’s heartless to single her out. My dog has done nothing wrong and you’re considering me getting rid of her.”

     Harold said they have never had a single issue with Stoni in public.

     The Devilbisses agreed to a DNA test.

     “We have no problem with the DNA test,” said Harold, “but it goes back to being an emotional support dog.”

     With a DNA test taking a couple of weeks’ time, the council voted to table any decisions until their next council meeting.

In other council business:

     • The council heard from Starlighters Theatre II representatives Steve Clemmons, Bob Furino and Jan Cratsenberg about long-term use of the Community Building for theatre classes and community events.

     Earlier this spring, Starlighters held adult acting classes inside the Community Building, and saw the possibility of future use, with some updating. (Starlighters began in Monticello in 1974.)

     “We loved working in the facility, where we started,” said Cratsenberg. “We got really nostalgic and see some hope for the future.”

     The group asked the council if they were willing to lend a couple of volunteers to serve on an exploratory committee to see what could be done to expand services in the Community Building. Council member Johnny Russ suggested involving Parks & Rec and the Monticello Public Library as well.

     “I think you are hitting some key notes,” praised Goedken. He said past discussion led to talk of removing the stage. “That stage is part of the history of the building,” he added. “I think this is terrific.”

     • The council approved a sanitary sewer credit to the Monticello Community School District related to a broken water line at Carpenter School, in the amount of $850.66. The council also waived the one-time use stipulation because the school is a public entity.



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