Tragic end for two ‘aggressive’ dogs at large in Traer

This story has been updated since first published.

Tama Co. Sheriff Dennis Kucera responds to Traer residents Stephanie Friestad and Brooke Hickman (off frame) during the Jan. 9 Traer City Council meeting held at City Hall. PHOTO BY SOREN M. PETERSON

Telegraph note: This story has been updated to reflect the events of the Monday, Jan. 9 Traer City Council meeting during which dog owners Stephanie Friestad and Brooke Hickman, as well as Tama Co. Sheriff Dennis Kucera spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting.

Two dogs were destroyed in Traer on Monday, Jan. 2 by the Tama County Sheriff’s Office in a tragic, partial ending to an ongoing community issue.

According to a Jan. 3 press release, just after 9 a.m. on Monday, deputies responded to a report of “two aggressive dogs running at large within the city limits of Traer.”

The dogs reportedly belonged to residents of the home located at 914 Second Street, which is owned by Happy Friestad.

About an hour later, a deputy was able to locate the two dogs on the east side of town and subsequently “destroyed them.”

The Traer home located at 914 Second Street owned by Happy Friestad pictured on Wednesday, December 7. Two black dogs are visible in the front yard inside a fence. Since this photo was taken, two dogs belonging to residents of the home were destroyed by the Tama County Sheriff’s Office. PHOTO BY TAMA GRUNDY PUBLISHING

The death of the two dogs appears to have taken place on the grounds of Can Country, a redemption center located at 2608 170th St. on the eastern edge of Traer.

Joe Jacobs, owner and operator of Can Country, provided a statement to the North Tama Telegraph regarding the events of Monday morning.

“When I was going to open this morning at 10 [a.m.] a deputy was driving through my lot and told me there were [two] black dogs on my property and that he had to shoot them,” Jacobs stated. “When I turned around the dogs were right there. I told [the dogs] to get [away], and they went towards the road. That’s when the deputy shot them at the end of my driveway.”

Jacobs said he was not attacked nor injured by the dogs, and he did not report the dogs running at large.

“I didn’t call the police and I have never seen the dogs out here before. I was just ‘lucky’ enough to have it end on my property,” Jacobs further stated.

Jacobs said the deputy left soon thereafter leaving him to “deal with the animals and the owners who showed up near hysterical.”

“We are innocent bystanders,” Jacobs stated in conclusion. “[Bystanders] who wish this wouldn’t have happened at all, let alone on our property.”

The two dogs in question belong to either Happy Friestad and/or his girlfriend Brooke Hickman, who also lives at 914 Second St. Both Friestad and Hickman have registered two dogs each with the city of Traer.

“The Sheriff’s Office has received over 12 complaints from the community within the last three months alone on these dogs running at large,” the Tama Co. Sheriff’s Office’s press release further states. “The owners have already been issued multiple citations for dogs at large.”

Loose and/or dangerous dogs at large – dogs belonging specifically to the owners of 914 Second St. – was the primary topic of discussion at the December city council meeting.

During that meeting, both a resident of the neighborhood – Holly Atkins who lives at 917 Second Street – and Tama Co. Sheriff Dennis Kucera spoke regarding Traer’s animal and protection control ordinance (Chapter 55) and the continuing violations of that ordinance by the homeowner and residents of 914 Second St.

Following her remarks, Atkins presented to the council 10 signed statements from those she described as “neighbors and community members who have strong concerns” about the dogs at 914 Second Street.

For his part, Kucera told the council every time his office receives a complaint about the dogs that is “backed up,” a citation is filed.

Kucera also addressed the Iowa Code specifically as it relates to dogs at large, stating: “If an animal – in this case, a dog – comes on your property, is not welcome, and it acts in a vicious manner, the Iowa Code is very clear – that a person can destroy the dog. I would hate to see the community start doing that because a lot of times it’s not the dog’s fault. It’s the people that owned the dogs that aren’t controlling them.”

Later in the December meeting, the council made the decision to begin pursuing Chapter 55 city ordinance violations against the dogs’ owners.

Jan. 9 council meeting – owners speak

During the Jan. 9 city council meeting, the self-identified owners of the deceased dogs – Brooke Hickman and Stephanie Friestad, residents of 914 Second Street – spoke extensively under the public comment portion of the meeting.

After reading quickly through several Tama Co. ordinances – highlighting impoundment and written notice – Hickman shared with the council that one of the deceased dogs was due to deliver eight puppies this week. Hickman also showed a printed photograph of the deceased dogs lying on the ground.

“There wasn’t two dogs killed, there was ten,” Friestad said. “The dogs were not seen to be aggressive or anything as testified by the owners of Can Country. The officer got out of his truck … they [the deputy and Can Country owner Joe Jacobs] were standing next to each other and fired.”

Hickman and Friestad further said that the single bullet allegedly went through both dogs, killing them.

At one point Hickman accused the deputy of going off “half cocked on dogs that were not aggressive, had never been aggressive. Never been cited for being aggressive. Never had professional evaluation to be aggressive – this is the result I get. … Instead of anyone coming and talking to us – saying, like, look, citations aren’t enough, you guys need to do something else. Had I known that shooting my dogs was an option? Instead of spending $600 on a new fence for them, I would have gone to Walmart and spent $5 on a leash.”

Friestad then explained the reason the dogs were out on Jan. 2 was due to chasing a coyote off the property.

“We understand there was an issue with the dogs at large and it was not from lack of trying to contain them. We had issues of people cutting our electric fence, our old one,” Friestad stated at one point. The fence being cut was confirmed later in the meeting by Sheriff Dennis Kucera.

Following Hickman’s and Friestad’s comments, Mayor Pete Holden invited the sheriff to comment, to which he replied, “We regret that that had to happen,” before he was briefly interrupted by Hickman.

He later continued: “It probably happened because, between August 2022 and January 2023, we responded to 17 calls about your dogs running loose. … but we also responded to a dog bite. An owner at your house of a dog got bit that needed stitches … That particular day [Jan. 2] … [your dog] was out in the neighbor’s yard, it was running loose, it was off of your property.”

“Seventeen times in that time frame that I mentioned, we have responded to your dogs running at large in the community,” Sheriff Kucera further said. “Those 17 times were complaints from people in the community. Seventeen times. The people in the community should not have to put up with you having dogs that you can’t control, that break off a leash, that jump over a fence, that you’re not outside taking care of – being responsible owners of dogs to make sure they are staying on your property. Fence or no fence.”

Following a back and forth between the sheriff, Hickman, and Friestad over how long the deputy searched for the dogs on Jan. 2 – Sheriff Kucera indicated it was for at least “30 minutes or better.”

Hickman asked at one point, “What justification does [the deputy] have to shoot a non-aggressive dog?”

“They are aggressive,” Sheriff Kucera responded. “The complaints have been that they are aggressive.”

Later in the meeting during the Sheriff’s Report, Mayor Holden described the Jan. 2 situation as “unfortunate” but felt the deputy was “appropriate in their actions.”

“It’s not the dogs’ fault,” Sheriff Kucera replied, echoing statements he repeatedly made during the December council meeting, “it’s the owners’ fault. End result is what happens.”

Following the meeting, Sheriff Kucera told the Telegraph that although there is no written policy as to how destroyed dogs are to be handled after the fact, it is generally up to the owners to retrieve the dogs which the residents of 914 Second Street did.