Roc to be rescued?

Published 5:22 pm Friday, August 7, 2015

The Austin City Council voted Monday night to euthanize Roc, the 4-year-old pitbull that was deemed dangerous. -- Herald file photo

The Austin City Council voted Monday night to euthanize Roc, the 4-year-old pitbull that was deemed dangerous. However, an activist, his owner and others are still calling for his release. — Herald file photo

The fight for Roc the dog’s life isn’t over yet.

Roc’s former owner has appealed the Austin City Council’s decision to euthanize the dog with the help of an animal rights advocate from New York.

Attorney Lisa Dailey, representing Sofia Smith, has requested a temporary restraining order from Mower County District Judge Kevin Siefken to prevent Roc from being euthanized.

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“We believe we’ve found a shelter that would take him, rehabilitate him and rehome him,” Smith said Friday.

Smith, Dailey and Kate Riviello, president of No Kill New York, argue Roc may have been illegally seized from Smith last month after he allegedly attacked a man in northwest Austin. In addition, Roc’s team believes the Austin City Council may have violated state statute during the proceedings to declare Roc a dangerous dog last month.

Smith and Riviello have set up an online fundraiser to pay for court expenses, as well as future boarding and training costs for the dog if he is allowed to go to a dog program. Roc supporters will also stage a protest from 3 to 5 p.m. Tuesday in front of Austin’s city hall building at Fourth Street and Fourth Avenue Northwest.

“This woman was not given due process,” Riviello said. “[The city is] way out of line and we’re going to hit them with everything we’ve got.”

Thus far, supporters from around the area, region and country have called city officials to complain about the situation. The city of Austin’s Facebook page was taken offline Friday after many people flooded the page with complaints about Roc. Riviello also plans to contact the Minnesota branch of the American Civil Liberties Union.


A dangerous dog?

The Austin City Council declared Roc a dangerous dog on July 21 and finalized its findings to euthanize him on Aug. 3.

Roc has allegedly attacked or threatened residents in northwest Austin several times since 2013. He reportedly jumped on a man walking near the 600 block of Sixth Avenue on July 1 and tried to bite him, according to police reports. The man only suffered a slight scratch on his face, however.

Before that, Roc twice threatened mail carriers in 2013 and 2014, and allegedly ran after a father and his 6-year-old daughter walking to Sumner Elementary School last December.

Yet Roc never bit anyone, according to the official record. Roc bit a mailbag and needed to be maced to let go of it in one of the mail carrier incidents, and the dog allegedly grabbed the 6-year-old’s backpack last year.

Smith and others contend the 4-year-old dog is simply playful and doesn’t know he’s not a puppy anymore.

“The conduct of this particular dog has been somewhat mischaracterized as somewhat aggressive,” Dailey said. “It’s not your typical situation where it’s a vicious dog or it’s aggressively trying to attack people.”

Yet city officials contended the dog had become a danger to residents.

“It’s really boiling down to public safety versus the dog’s life,” City Administrator Craig Clark said. “At this point in time, the preponderance lies toward protecting public safety.”

Yet Smith had offered to either keep the dog under the city’s dangerous dog requirements or take him to a dog shelter that could retrain and find Roc a new home.

She still hopes to do that, as she doesn’t believe Roc would be safe staying in Austin with her after all the attention he’s received.

Before Roc’s first hearing, the man Roc scratched called Smith and threatened to shoot the dog and her. Smith doesn’t know how he got her phone number, but she did report him to the police.

“Obviously I wish he could come home but that’s not an option anymore,” she said. “I just want him to have the opportunity to live a full life. He has a lot of life left in him.”

Residents interested in supporting Roc can visit his Facebook page, “Save Roc from the City of Austin Minnesota” or donate to Roc and Smith at