When Dan Tillery brought home his new dog, Diggy, after a successful adoption, their love was mutual, and immediate. In fact, it was so immediate that Mr. Tillery was able to snap a selfie of himself with Diggy, a photo so endearing that the internet community fell in love with Diggy’s smile and pushed the story viral.
Unfortunately, their obvious joy led quickly to potential heartbreak. Someone called the police to report Diggy as illegal to own, based on the town of Waterford’s “dangerous animal” ordinance.Chapter 3 of the ordinance includes the following:
“The Township staff has collected detailed and reliable data from many sources on the number, nature and severity of attacks by pit bull terriers upon innocent citizens of this community, the Metropolitan-Detroit area, and other communities and urban areas within the state, and the United States of America.
“Based upon this data, the Township concludes that pit bull terriers within this community constitute an unacceptable risk of harm and fear to the residents hereof, and must therefore be closely regulated as provided herein.”
Township staff. Not a veterinarian, or a dog trainer, or anyone with any proven experience with dogs, or even canine biology. Nope, leave it to the township staff.
The ordinance goes on to say they have “reliable data” showing “ample evidence” of their conclusions about the danger of pit bulls. Now, I won’t pretend to know how city ordinance is written, but I do know that whenever I write something that may be seen as controversial, I damn well better be able to provide a source.
The reality is that much of the stigma surrounding the danger of pit bull terrier breeds is based on media hype. Studies show that breed-specific legislation does nothing to curb the rate of dog attacks.
But when a pit bull does attack, the media loses their minds. In 2007, the National Canine Research Council compared media coverage of dog attacks over a 4-day period. These were the results:
- On day one, a Labrador mix attacked an elderly man, sending him to the hospital. News stories of his attack appeared in one article in the local paper.
- On day two, a mixed–breed dog fatally injured a child. The local paper ran two stories.
- On day three, a mixed–breed dog attacked a child, sending him to the hospital. One article ran in the local paper.
- On day four, two pit bulls that broke off their chains attacked a woman trying to protect her small dog. She was hospitalized. Her dog was uninjured. This attack was reported in more than 230 articles in national and international newspapers and on the major cable news networks.
Despite all of the evidence to the contrary of the determinations in the ordinance, Mr. Tillery was presented with the information by police stating that he would need to get rid of Diggy. As a law-abiding citizen, he said he would have Diggy out of the house in three days. That was before the internets joined the fight.
This scuffle is now being waged on two fronts. First, via a petition that has over 72,000 signatures as of this writing, and it is growing every day (it was at 54,000 yesterday when I signed).
The petition aims to force the township of Waterford to change their ordinance so that it doesn’t single out a specific breed.
The second front comes from the ordinance language itself, which defines a pit bull as an American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, or Staffordshire Bull Terrier. Kristina Rinaldi, executive director of Detroit Dog Rescue (which handled Diggy’s adoption), used this opportunity to throw breed-specific language back in the township’s face.
Diggy is actually an American bulldog:
“‘I have Diggy’s paperwork from another municipality and a veterinarian … She added that the dog rescue called Waterford before arranging the adoption to make sure American Bulldogs were allowed. Tillery even licensed the dog as a bulldog before bringing it home.”
So how is it that this issue isn’t closed based on that information?
Because the ordinance states that the determination can be made by an animal control officer on whether the dog fits the description of one of the banned breeds. Which is quite the amazing feat, considering there is no universally-accepted way to visually determine a breed.
At what point do we elected officials decide to consult with actual experts instead of letting the township staff do a Google search?
Besides the fact that Diggy isn’t even in the breed category that would classify him as a pit bull terrier, all of the information presented against pit bull terriers is based on misleading facts and outright lies based on media hype and paranoia.
I mean, just look at these vicious beasts:
Featured Image Via Amber Rose/Facebook.