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Tag: michigan

To be or not to be — a pit bull

diggy3

Whether Diggy is to be or not to be a pit bull will be decided by a judge.

The dog whose smiling face went viral — and led local officials to label him a pit bull and order him to leave town — is going to get his day in court.

Since we last reported on the case, Diggy has been proclaimed an American bulldog by a local veterinarian, but Waterford Township officials apparently didn’t buy the vet’s pronouncement.

Diggy is a pit bull, they say, based on how he looks — and those are banned in the Michigan township, under its dangerous dog ordinance.

Because Diggy’s owner, Dan Tillery, was cited by local authorities for having a pit bull, the final disposition of the case will be left up to the court.

It’s all a tremendous waste of time — first and foremost because pit bull bans are ill-conceived and just don’t work. On top of that, pit bull isn’t a breed at all. On top of that, a judge is likely to be even worse at determining breed than animal control officials, police, shelters, rescues and even veterinarians are, which is pretty bad to begin with.

And on top of all those things, does either side really want to know?

If they did, you’d think they’d have conducted a DNA test by now.

diggy4Tillery, a musician, adopted the dog from Harper Woods-based Detroit Dog Rescue earlier this month and posted a photo of Diggy and himself that went viral and was shared by news outlets nationwide.

The media coverage led the Waterford Police Department to drop by a few days later, take a look at Diggy, proclaim him a pit bull, and tell his owner that he had three days to get the dog out of town.

The dog had been listed as an American bulldog when he was in Detroit’s city animal shelter. He was pulled from there by Detroit Dog Rescue, which, in at least one Facebook post, labeled him an American bulldog-pit bull mix. On the official adoption papers, though, Detroit Dog Rescue listed him as American bulldog.

After the police department’s ultimatum, Tillery had the dog assessed by a local veterinarian who judged him to be American bulldog — though he apparently did so without conducting a DNA test.

That wasn’t good enough for local authorities, who, though they relaxed that three days to get out of town part, are still insisting Diggy is a pit bull and must leave.

Tillery met Monday with Waterford Township officials, and posted on his Facebook page that the prosecutor was sticking to the decision to have Diggy removed from the community.

A hearing was scheduled for Aug. 11, at 2 p.m. in Waterford’s 51st District Court.

“My lawyer and I are going to do everything possible to make sure Diggy stays in his home with us, his family,” Tillery said in the post. “Thanks for all of your support, guys. I’m not a quitter.”

diggyWaterford Township Prosecutor Margaret Scott said that the township will now simply wait to allow the court to determine whether Diggy falls within the ban.

“We’re not going in and removing the dog, we’re not destroying the dog — it is a pending violation,” she told the Oakland Press.

Tillery and his dog have seen an outpouring of support from dog lovers and those opposed to Waterford’s breed-specific legislation. More than 50 supporters showed up at a Waterford Board of Trustees meeting to ask officials to remove the dangerous dog ordinance from its books.

More than 100,000 people have signed a petition asking the town to lift the ban.

Strangely, amid all the debate and national news coverage, DNA testing hasn’t been mentioned. If Tillery has pursued it, he’s staying quiet about it.

While some of the companies offering DNA tests — via blood samples or cheek swabs — skip around the pit bull question, a few of the tests do identify the breeds commonly associated with pit bulls.

certOne even offers a “pit bull exemption certificate” in cases where a dog is determined to be made up of 87 percent or more of non-pit bull breeds.

That may or not impress Waterford officials, or the judge, as such tests aren’t conclusive.

It’s still a possibility — that one side, or the other, or the judge, could pursue having the test done.

It would at least add some factual material to all the guesswork going on, at least a little foundation for the strident and unending Internet debate that is mostly — much like pit bull bans themselves — sound and fury, signifying nothing.

(Photos of Diggy by Dan Tillery)

How to erase a smile: Michigan dog whose photo went viral is now an outlaw

smileydogA dog whose smile went viral this month on the Internet has been deemed an outlaw — based entirely on his looks.

Diggy was adopted by Michigan musician Dan Tillery, and a heartwarming photo of the two of them with big smiles on their faces (left) has been shared widely on social media.

But once Tillery brought the dog home to Waterford Township, they were met with a frown.

The township bans pit bulls, and when police received “several complaints” about Diggy — not based on any bad behavior, just based on his looks — police officers visited Tillery’s home.

“Based on their observations, it was determined the dog was part pit bull/pit bull terrier,” Police Lt. Todd Hasselbach said.

Listen more closely to his remarks and you can hear they are oozing something very close to what, in the human community, we’d call racism.

He confirms that Diggy is being judged based on looks alone. He says any percentage of pit bull in Diggy — no matter how small — makes him a pit bull. And he says Diggy can’t be permitted to live in Waterford Township because of the “zero tolerance” ordinance, which has been “in effect for many years.” As if that makes it right.

Sounding like a lawman from the old west, or maybe more like a 1960’s sheriff from the deep south, went on to say Diggy has three days to get out of town.

diggyAll that would be a pretty troubling series of events, in my view, whether Diggy is a pit bull or not.

And he may not be.

Diggy was picked up as a stray earlier this year by Detroit Animal Care and Control, which classified him as an American bulldog.

Detroit Dog Rescue, the only no-kill shelter in the city, later pulled Diggy from the facility and put him up for adoption, according to ABC News’ local affiliate WXYZ.

Tillery and his girlfriend adopted Diggy after seeing a photo posted on the nonprofit rescue group’s Facebook page. In that post, Diggy — then named Sir Wiggleton — was described as a “2 year old American bulldog/pit bull mix that loves the water and is just a big goofball.”

In the week after his adoption, Diggy became an internet sensation after Tillery posted a photo of him smiling with his new dog.

Owning a pit bull in Waterford is an ordinance violation that can carry a $500 fine. Police didn’t cite Tillery but told him he had until today to relocate the dog to another town.

diggy2Waterford police said if a veterinarian deems Diggy to be an American bulldog or another permitted breed, with no pit bull in him, then he can stay — but they say it has to be a vet of the police department’s choosing.

Kristina Millman-Rinaldi, executive director of Detroit Dog Rescue, said the organization already had a vet deem Diggy an American bulldog, and called the Waterford Township city clerk’s office beforehand to make sure there were no restrictions on that breed.

Waterford Township defines pit bulls as dogs that “substantially conform to the breed standards established by the American Kennel Club” for American pit bull terriers, Staffordshire bull terriers, or American Staffordshire terriers.

And the ordinance allows police officers to make that call — based on the dog’s looks and their previous experience with pit bulls.

An online petition to lift the dangerous dog ban in Waterford has garnered nearly 40,000 signatures.

Why not just drive off, cable guy?

cleoOut of Monroe County, Michigan, comes the story of a cable guy who shot and killed a “threatening” dog while on duty.

We’ve come to expect this behavior from police officers, and regularly bash them for making snap judgments to end a life because a dog is running towards them in what they perceive — sometimes rightly, sometimes wrongly — to be an aggressive manner.

But possibly even scarier than that is the idea of a cable guy who is toting a gun, and  making that judgment.

In this case, Martel Travis had arrived at a home when he was approached by Cleo, a three-year-old chocolate Lab mix who lived next door.

Travis told police, after the incident, that the dog was acting aggressively, so he walked away from the home and to his service truck, where he retrieved his gun and shot the dog.

We can’t help but ask, once he was back in his truck, why didn’t he just drive away?

Is installing cable so important that gunning down a dog is preferable to coming back another day, perhaps one when the neighbors have been called and asked to keep their dog inside?

To consider this a killing that occurred in the “line of duty” is a joke.

But somehow, a jury saw clear to acquit him of the charge the prosecutor’s office filed  — animal killing/ torturing, a felony that carries a maximum penalty of four years in prison.

The Monroe News reports that the jury deliberated about an hour before rendering their verdict.

“This has revived my faith in the criminal justice system,” said Marlon B. Evans, the Detroit lawyer who represented Travis. “… He was at work, doing his job and he had a right to defend himself.”

Monroe County Assistant Prosecutor Ronald Benore Jr. called six witnesses to testify in the one and a half day trial, and argued that Travis overreacted and shot the dog unnecessarily.

“The jury must have believed he was in fear of his life or in danger,” Benore said.

The dog’s owners, Brian and Melissa Doran, said they were shocked at the verdict.

Cleo was never aggressive and was merely trying to greet Travis, they added.

We won’t second guess the jury (much), but we will second guess the cable guy:  Once he returned to his vehicle to get his gun (which he has a license to carry), why didn’t he just remain inside and make a call, or drive off?

(Photo courtesy of the Doran family)

Service dogs help make a special prom night

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Prom night wasn’t on the agenda for seniors Delaney Johnson and Nick Ackerman.

The two teens, both with disabilities, go to different high schools and hadn’t even met until their service dogs — in a way — brought them together.

Nick, who has a service dog named Troy, was interviewing Delaney, who has a service dog named Griffin, for a school video project on service dogs.

Making small talk, she asked him, “Are you all geared for prom?” When he told her he had no plans to go to his, she volunteered to go with him. He accepted.

With their service dogs along, they attended his school’s prom, then hers.

A Lansing State Journal columnist and photographer went along — and you can find their story and video here.

Delaney, 17, goes to Haslett High School, where, before she got her 2-year-old Dutch shepherd Griffin, she would faint or pass out up to 20 times a day due to narcolepsy.

Between medication and help from Griffin, that condition — and a second neurological condition called cataplexy — have been brought under control.

Her dog acts to distract her if she’s experiencing anxiety and, in case of an attack, he’s trained to stay with her, lying on top of her if she becomes incapacitated so that she feels protected.

“Since I got Griffin, I’ve not had any major cataplexy attacks at all,” said Johnson, a singer and songwriter who plans to take Griffin with her this fall to attend Grand Valley State University. “…He’s my own personal little bodyguard.”

prom3Nick attends Forest Hills Central High School in Grand Rapids, where he’s a champion debater. His service dog Troy helps Nick, who was born without arms, do everything from carrying things to zipping up his coat.

Nick, who plans to attend Eastern Michigan University in the fall, met Delaney two weeks ago, when he interviewed her for a class project on service dogs and the subject of proms came up.

On May 2, they went to his prom. Last Saturday, they went to hers.

The columnist and photographer accompanied the foursome — from home, where they posed for family photos, to a sushi dinner and then to the prom itself.

“I was going to stay home and eat ice cream and watch movies,” Delaney said later. “I’m just so glad I went…It was an amazing time.”

(Photos by Matthew Dae Smith / Lansing State Journal)

World’s tallest dog dies of “old age” — at 5

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Zeus, the world’s tallest dog, is dead.

The Great Dane passed away earlier this month — two months shy of his sixth birthday — from “symptoms of old age,” according to his owner.

Great Danes have shorter life spans than most dogs — most likely the result of breeders intent on making the breed larger yet, and the strain that size puts on their organs — which only makes the death of Zeus doubly sad.

“We’ll really miss him,” said Zeus’ owner, Kevin Doorlag, of Otsego, Michigan.

Doorlag and his wife, Denise say Zeus was a “wonderful dog” — famous both for Guinness World Record-setting size, and for his work as a therapy dog in their hometown.

He stood 44 inches at the shoulder — 7 feet, 4 inches on his hind legs. He claimed the Guinness World Record in 2012, and still held the title in the 2013 and 2014 editions.

The previous World’s Tallest Dog was Giant George, a Tuscon, Arizona, Great Dane. He died at age 7.

Kevin Doorlag said one of the things he will miss most is seeing the joy Zeus brought to others.

The death of Zeus is, first and foremost, a time to remember and celebrate Zeus.

But if it makes us question why, in the name of seeking extremes, we accept purebred breeding practices that lead to ill health and short lives, that’s fine, too. They’re in need of questioning.

What there’s less need for — whether it’s in pursuit of ribbons, world records, or sales — is making fluffy dogs fluffier, long and skinny dogs longer and skinnier, short snouted dogs even more shortly snouted.

We don’t need (sorry, Marmaduke) cartoonish dogs, or dogs that, through breeding them with close relatives, become exaggerated caricatures of their breed.

Healthy dogs will do just fine.

(Photo: Kalamazoo Gazette)

“The only thing I’m going to do is shoot it”


That police in St. Clair Shores in Michigan saw killing a dog as the preferable way to stop her barking has been pretty well documented in dash cam videos that have become public.

As soon as they pulled up at the scene, their dashboard camera recorded remarks they were making inside their patrol car, like “The only thing I’m going to do is shoot it” and “I don’t do snares. I don’t do dogs … I’ll shoot the f—ing thing.”

lexieBut why there were 15 bullet holes in Lexie, a dog police officers only admitted to shooting four times, is a question that may go unanswered — at least until a federal lawsuit filed by the dog’s owner comes to trial.

The lawsuit, filed earlier this month, stems from the November 2013 shooting of Lexie, a 44-pound mixed breed who was the subject of a barking dog complaint filed by a neighbor.

Lexie’s owner, Brittay Preston, filed the lawsuit against the city of St. Clair Shores, two police officers and an animal control officer, according to Fox News in Detroit. It alleges a violation of her Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable seizure.

The lawsuit seeks money damages, and assurances that St. Clair Township police will “train their officers so that there’s not another incident where they respond to a barking dog complaint by killing it,” said Preston’s attorney, Chris Olson.

Preston was at work and the dog was under the care of a grandfather, who suffers from dementia and forgot to let Lexie back inside during a cold night.

Officers, after discussing their alternatives in the patrol car, approached the home and eventually persuaded the grandfather to let the dog in the house. After he agreed to do so, they shot the dog saying she lunged at them in a threatening manner.

Attorney Olson said the discussion recorded by the dash came shows the shooting was premeditated.

“Neighbors complained of a dog that was barking. [Police] showed up. The first thing that they said out of their mouths was they don’t like dogs; they don’t do dogs; they’re going to shoot the dog anyway. And that’s exactly what they did,” he said.

“Then they shot the dog again, instead of trying to take care of the dog, getting some care of the dog to prevent it from dying, they did what they intended to do. They made sure that the dog died. They shot it again, and then the dog walked into the animal control van and then when we picked up the dog it had extra bullet holes,” he added.

A necropsy conducted by a veterinarians found 15 bullet holes in Lexie.

Officers, after shooting and wounding the dog, can be heard discussing what to do next, including “choking it out” and “using a shovel,” according to the lawsuit.

One officer remarked that would be a bad idea because “you know this is going to be all over Facebook in about an hour.”

“We’re saddened when anyone loses a pet, but since the city and its employees are being sued, the city will certainly defend the lawsuit,” St. Clair Shores City Attorney Robert Ihrie said in a statement. “The complaint that was filed is filled with innuendo, speculation and half truths, and I have no doubt when it’s held up to the light of day, the truth will bear itself out in court.”

(Photo: from the Justice for Lexie Facebook page)

Dachshund fights off bear 100 times his size


A four-pound dachshund is being credited with scaring off a 400-pound bear and keeping it from harming a group of friends on a trip through the woods in Michigan.

The dog, named Bradley, was killed in the effort, but he just might have saved the lives of the humans his owner believes he was protecting.

bradley“I believe honestly the outcome would’ve been different if Brad had not been with them,” John Force, Bradley’s owner said. “If the bear had attacked Brad, it certainly would’ve attacked the men who were bigger than Brad.”

On Saturday, a group of friends visiting the Forces ventured into the woods in Oscoda County on a golf cart, taking Bradley along for the ride, according to Upnorthlive.com

When they came across a mother bear and her cubs they stopped. As the bear and men stared at each other, Bradley jumped out and ran at the bear.

“Brad jumped off the golf cart and attacked the big bear, they got into a scuffle,” Force said.

Bradley ran back to the golf cart, but his bite wounds were severe and he died an hour later.

“He was only four to five pounds, but in his mind I think he thought he was 100 pounds,” said Lisa Force, John’s wife.

“…He was a little fighter a little scrapper,” John Force said, “and he didn’t think twice about attacking a bear. I guarantee you, he would have did it again.”