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Tag: michigan

Jeb is off death row, thanks to DNA test

jebheadshomeDNA evidence has cleared many an innocent man, but for what may be the first time ever it has been used to free a dog on death row.

Jeb, a Belgian Malinois, had been in the custody of St.Clair County animal control since Aug. 24 after being accused of killing a neighbor dog.

He was released to his owners in Port Huron, Mich., yesterday.

We first told you about the case at the end of September.

That’s when the judge who had ordered Jeb put down agreed to hear a motion putting off his euthanization pending the results of a DNA test on the dog who was killed.

That dog, a Pomeranian named Vlad, was found dead in his yard Aug. 24, and his owner, St. Clair resident Christopher Sawa, says he saw Jeb standing over his dog’s body. Both dogs were inside his backyard.

vlad

Vlad, the Pomeranian

Vlad was found with severe bruising over both shoulders and a puncture wound on his right front leg. There was another deep wound found on his left side that penetrated his chest and broke two ribs.

The veterinarian who examined Vlad said his injuries were consistent with being picked up and shaken by a larger animal.

Based on the circumstantial evidence, a district judge in Michigan ordered Jeb to be euthanized after hearing the evidence against him on Sept. 19.

Jeb’s owners, Pam and Kenneth Job, then asked the court to allow them time to have an independent lab conduct DNA tests on Vlad’s body — to see if traces of Jeb’s DNA could be found in his wounds.

In October, the judge issued a 30-day stay on the euthanization to allow the Jobs to conduct a DNA test.

DNA samples taken from Vlad did not match those of Jeb, according to a report issued by the University of Florida’s Maples Center for Forensic Medicine dated Oct. 24, the Detroit Free Press reported yesterday.

A consent judgment was signed yesterday that allowed the Jobs to take Jeb home.

jebfacebookpageThe judgment has conditions attached, including requiring the Jobs to provide fencing and insurance coverage, according to prosecutor Mike Wendling.

He said community members and animal advocacy groups have helped the family meet those terms.

Friends and family also started a “Free Jeb” Facebook page, on which the family yesterday posted a photo of Jeb on the way home.

A a petition at change.org requesting Jeb’s release received more than 98,000 signatures.

Bachelor party goes terribly, terribly … right

bachelorparty

When eight men gather in a cabin in the woods for a bachelor party, you can expect some memories are going to be made — the kind they will share, or hide, for the rest of their lives.

For groom-to-be Mitchel Craddock and his friends from Michigan, there was no choice but to share them, for they ended up bringing home the female who showed up at their cabin door — and her seven pups.

The mother dog showed up at their door one morning as they were making breakfast, drawn most likely by the scent of frying bacon.

She wouldn’t come through the open door, so they brought her a plate of breakfast leftovers, after which she became less timid and let them pet her.

“It took a few minutes for her to gain our trust but from then on she was our best friend,” Craddock said.

It was then they noticed that, judging from the size of her nipples, she appeared to recently have had some babies.

denScouting the area around the cabin, they found, just down the road, a den containing her seven puppies.

“We could hear them whimpering,” Alex Manchester. “Mama showed up and was actually helping us get the dogs out. One by one we grabbed them and handed them out.”

They brought the puppies — about five months old and in good health — back to the cabin, bathed them and started pondering what to do with them.

“Once we got the puppies out of the hole, we knew we couldn’t just leave them, so we started figuring out where they would go,” said Craddock.

He already owned a chocolate Lab, but when he called his wife-to-be she insisted they take a pup for their new household.

His grandparents volunteered to take Little Orphan Annie, the name they gave the mother dog, into their family — along with another one of the puppies, according to the Nashville Tennessean.

cabinAnd the rest of pups were taken home by the other partygoers, all of who’d gone to Tennessee to do some four-wheeling and bid farewell to their buddy’s bachelorhood.

“You think of a bachelor party, and that’s the last thing you think of,” said Craddock. “Eight guys go down to go four wheeling and come back with eight dogs.”

Craddock, 23, and his bride, Kristen Olson, also 23, were married on Oct. 8, after a rehearsal dinner the night before that all the dogs attended.

“They were all playing together and glad to see each other,” Craddock said. “I’m sure they’ll be life-long buddies. Just like all of us.”

(At top, the party boys and their pups after they returned from the trip; lower, the den the pups were found in; and one of the pups getting comfortable at the cabin; by Bryan Bennett)

Could a DNA test prove dog’s innocence?

Up to now, DNA testing on dogs has been used mostly to satisfy owner curiosity over what breeds are in their mutt, or by apartment managers who want to identify dogs whose owners didn’t pick up after them.

Now comes a chance to put it to more noble use. (Cue up the “Law & Order” theme.)

jebThe owners of a Belgian Malinois accused of killing a neighbor dog say a DNA test could clear their dog of a murder rap.

A district judge in Michigan ordered Jeb, the Belgian Malinois, to be euthanized after hearing the evidence against him on Sept. 19.

But Jeb’s owners, Pam and Kenneth Job, have filed a motion for DNA testing to be conducted on the dead dog, a Pomeranian named Vlad.

Vlad died Aug. 24, and his owner, St. Clair resident Christopher Sawa, says he saw Jeb standing over his dog’s body. Both dogs were inside his backyard.

St. Clair County Animal Control took possession of Jeb after that.

Vlad was found with severe bruising over both shoulders and a puncture wound on his right front leg. There was another deep wound found on his left side that penetrated his chest and broke two ribs, the Detroit Free Press reported.

vladThe veterinarian who examined Vlad said his injuries were consistent with being picked up and shaken by a larger animal.

Ed Marshall, the lawyer for the Jobs, is asking the judge to allow them time to have an independent lab test conducted on Vlad’s body — to see if traces of Jeb’s DNA can be found in his wounds.

A hearing on his motion is set for Monday.

The Jobs say Jeb is an unofficial service dog who helps Kenneth with a condition that causes his muscles to deteriorate.

They say Jeb is a gentle soul and that Vlad’s death could have been caused by a fox or coyote, both of which can be seen from time to time in the rural area in which they live.

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

promnight

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)