In a battle for Thor
ALGONA — The city of Algona’s animal control ordinance is located on its website, and deems a vicious dog as any dog which has attacked a human being or domestic animal one or more times without provocation.
The ordinance goes on to list nine additional indications of a vicious dog, including naming the Staffordshire terrier or American pit bull.
Andrew Eisenbacher of Algona believes that ordinance is unfair. He owns a large white and black pit bull named Thor.
“They believe that any dog that bites, just once, for whatever reason, it is considered a vicious dog,” said Eisenbacher. “Thor isn’t vicious. He was just protecting his home.”
Kossuth County Deputy Kyle Rich tells a different story. At approximately 8 a.m. on Monday, Aug. 15, he was serving civil papers on Eisenbacher, and approached the home where Eisenbacher lives with his girlfriend, Marjerie Thompson, and her father, Jerry Thompson.
“I was walking up to the door, and I saw the dog on the porch. He was barking at me,” said Rich. “His chain was wrapped around a lot of miscellaneous items, and I didn’t think he could reach me.”
According to Rich, Thor jumped off the chair he had been sitting on, and bit Rich on the left calf.
“He bit me once, and let go,” said Rich.
Eisenbacher was at work at the time, and came home to find out that Rich had filed a complaint with the Algona Police Department about Thor. Eisenbacher believes that Rich antagonized Thor, and states that while Thor has nipped one other person, he’s never bit anyone, and has never been aggressive.
“I do community service with Dale Briggs, and Thor has just barked at Briggs,” said Eisenbacher. “Why did my dog bite the deputy and not Briggs.”
What Eisenbacher believes is that his dog is being punished for Eisenbacher’s past.
“I don’t have anything to hide,” said Eisenbacher. “I have a criminal record, I’m on parole. But I have stayed out of trouble for over a year. I’ve cleaned up my act.”
He stated that he has taken Thor to Pet-Co in Mason City several times, and that “kids and people just love him.” He’s had the two-year-old dog for nearly a year and a half, and Eisenbacher’s 7-year-old son often plays with Thor.
“His best friend is a cat named Harley, he’s been around baby ducks. He’s just as loyal as any dog, and I trust my dog around kids,” said Eisenbacher.
However, per city ordinance, it doesn’t change the fact that Thor bit Rich, tearing his uniform and breaking skin. Rich went to the Kossuth Regional Health Center’s emergency room, where he received a tetanus shot and antibiotics.
“I feel for Mr. Eisenbacher,” said Algona Police Chief Kendall Pals. “I’ve had pets all my life, but I’ve got to put people, and safety, first. My decision has to be dictated by what happened and the potential danger to the public.”
Pals pointed out that Thor is on a chain, not in a fenced yard, and at the time of the bite, his vaccinations were outdated. Eisenbacher admitted that Thor’s vaccinations were outdated, but stated that he’s always taken great care of Thor, and takes Thor to the veterinarian regularly, including having Thor neutered.
Eisenbacher appealed the vicious dog labeling in front of the Algona City Council on Monday, Sept. 19. They denied the appeal.
“There was so much unprofessionalism,” said Eisenbacher. “So much lying. I don’t feel there was any fairness. They always put officers over civilians. My dog felt threatened. If you can’t handle a dog bite, you shouldn’t be an officer.”
“I have a decision to make, that could have serious consequences,” said Pals. “We have a dog at a residence that is approximately two blocks from Bryant Elementary that has bit someone. The dog is not behind a fence, just on a chain. Dogs get loose. I believe the council made the right decision.”
Pals stated Eisenbacher has three options — building a containment for Thor that meets city code, which means a fence buried two feet below ground to prevent digging under the fence, six feet taller than the tallest structure in the pen, and with a roof to prevent climbing over the fence; taking Thor out of Algona city limits after paying the fine and kenneling fee at $10 per day; or allowing the city to euthanize Thor, who has now been in the city’s custody for more than a month.
“I’m a self-employed mechanic,” said Eisenbacher. “I’ve got child support, fines, classes I have to take because of my parole, so $360 is a lot of money. Thor is like my child. I’ve never been so emotionally distressed in my life.”
Update: On Sunday, Oct. 2, Eisenbacher sold his car and used the funds to spring Thor.
“I’m keeping him in a kennel, and he won’t be out on a chain,” said Eisenbacher. “I am still going to file another appeal to get the vicious dog label taken off of Thor.”