Pit bull owner back in court in Salina, Kan.

By Clarissa Hawes, Land Line staff writer | 5/8/2015

OOIDA Member Nathan Stewart of Salina, Kan., was back in municipal court for a second time on Wednesday, May 6, in an attempt to get his 5-year-old pit bull, Sophie, back.

Stewart told Land Line on Friday, May 8, that he was granted another month at Wednesday’s hearing to come up with the retainer fee necessary to hire an attorney to represent him and Sophie. In the meantime, he said she is being “well cared for” at the Salina Animal Shelter.

He was able to visit her for 15 minutes after his court date on Wednesday, but again had to leave her behind and head back out on the road.

“When she saw me, she pretty much jumped into my arms,” Stewart said.

Prior to Sophie being seized in late March, Stewart said he was aware of Salina’s breed-specific law that prohibits pit bulls within city limits unless they were registered before the pit bull ban was enacted several years ago.

Salina Animal Control seized Sophie on March 29 after she escaped from Stewart’s friend’s house while the two were visiting friends. She was out only a little while and a friend quickly returned her to Stewart’s friend’s house, but a neighbor had already alerted animal control that a possible “pit bull-type dog” was running free.

Stewart said he was told by officers to hand over Sophie or “face charges.” He alleges his “Fourth Amendment rights were violated when Sophie was taken,” which is why he needs additional time to come up with the retainer fee.

He was charged with unlawful possession of a pit bull, permitting a dog to run at large, and failure to provide Sophie’s vaccination paperwork. Stewart said he has since provided Sophie’s vaccination paperwork to Salina Animal Control.

Stewart said that although he has a Salina address, he spends most of his time out on the road in his truck as a driver for Swift Transportation.

Stewart vows to be back in Salina for his third court date, set for 10 a.m. on June 17. So far, he said he has talked to an attorney and lobbyist in Kansas who fights breed-specific legislation. He has also talked to a local attorney in Salina who he said is willing to take his case “for a fee.”

“I understand the city doesn’t want kids to be hurt or bit, but any dog is capable of doing these things,” Stewart said. “I think it’s unfair to single out an entire breed. Sophie is a loving dog; she has never hurt anybody.”

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