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Council hears first appeal on updated vicious dog ordinance

The Newton City Council heard its first appeal regarding the city’s updated vicious dog ordinance at Monday night’s council meeting.

The council heard from Richard Lakin and Tyler Lakin about their dog, Scheko, which was later labeled as a vicious dog.

City Administrator Robert Knabel informed the council of the incidents that resulted in the dog being eligible for the city’s vicious dog ordinance.

“It (the ordinance) was issued against Richard Lakin, Lori Lakin and Tyler Lakin, the owners of Scheko,” Knabel said. “We have provided to the council copies of the findings, facts and conclusion of the law. (We have) provided exhibits related to the two incidents that occurred. The most recent one occurred on Jan. 21, when Scheko bit Mr. Lakin on the shoulder. He sought attention from Skiff Medical Center on Jan. 22, and that was reported then to the Newton Police Department. Also on the 22nd, they received a call from Jasper County Animal Rescue League, notifying the department that the same dog had attacked a 2-year-old April 1. Exhibits of those pictures are attached for the city council’s review. The Lakins were advised of their appeal, write an appeal to the order, and they exercised this right and are here before the council this evening.”

Richard was asked if he would like to say anything to the council, and he asked his son, Tyler, who was a witness to the incidents, to speak.

“There was just a couple of things that were said about Scheko, my dog, that were inaccurate about the statements that were made,” Tyler said. “One, where he attacked a 2-year-old, it was more (as if) they ran into each other, and he snipped at him. My dog, he is big. If he would have attacked him, it would have been a lot worse than what is what. It was just really that he snipped at him, and he did catch him on his lip and his ear too, I believe. And the other one, where my father was bit in the shoulder, was a different story too. The whole story wasn’t there, so the police report was a lot different than what actually happened.”

Richard then gave his version of the incident in which he was bit in the shoulder and said he was drinking a little, laid in bed and was playfully wrestling with his dog. He said while playing, the dog sneezed and he turned, causing him to “roll over on his foot.” Richard said the dog then snapped at him, causing his injury.

He also said the incident in which the 2-year-old, who was his grandchild, was bitten resulted in him taking precautions. Richard said he began putting the dog in a separate area when children came over.

Richard was asked to give clarification on the incidents and said that the dog was startled by the child when the child was bitten. The child’s injury did not require stitches.

Although Scheko had a few issues, Richard said his dog does not deserve to be labeled as a vicious dog.

“He’s never outside by himself, never,” Richard said. “I know Jeff lives right behind me, and I know he has kids. I would never let my dog out like that. He is on a very strong leash. He has a very strong collar. He has all of his shots. He has been taken care of. He goes to the vet all of the time. We take care of him, (and) he is a very good dog.”

Richard said he always greeted guest with love and affection and said because of some unattended pit bulls living in the area, his family decided not to take Scheko outside. He called both incidents an accident and said his dog knew what he did was wrong.

After Richard’s statements, Knabel reminded the council of the vicious-dog resolution definition.

“Clearly, I think section two of that definition — breaking of the skin above the shoulders — (happened),” Knabel said. “The dog snipped at him. The snipping caused damage, if you will, to the face. And that was breaking of the skin. The second one was commented on that they were tussling, fighting or something of that sort, and (the dog) was stepped on and the dog responded. The other part of it was the concern about the precaution that they (took is), they put the dog in the other room. It seems to me to indicate (there) is some (acknowledgement). What the staff is recommending is that the dog be listed as a vicious dog.”

He went on to list of requirements the owners must follow if the dog where to be deemed vicious. Knabel said the owner of the dog must have the dog wear a muzzle when outdoors, have vicious dog insurance and  have the animal be microchipped.

Newton Police Chief Jeff Hoebelheinrich also spoke to the council and said he did not believe there were any inaccuracies with the police report. He also noted the incident Tyler referenced that listed their dog as attacking was JCARL’S report, not the police department’s report.

Councilor Dennis Julius addressed the board about concerns of labeling the dog, in this incident, vicious. He said accidents happen and was the only member to vote not to label the dog as vicious.

Almost every council member seemed reluctant to vote, but agreed labeling the dog as vicious would be the best option for public safety. Councilor Jeff Price was the only council member who said he did not feel comfortable making a decision at the time.

Staff writer Matthew Shepard may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 425, or at

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