Smiling dog’s breed might violate Waterford ordinance

and Mark Hicks

Is the famous smiling pup of Waterford Township a pit bull or American bulldog?

There was confusion Friday over the breed of the adopted dog whose infectious ear-to-ear smile lit up the internet earlier this week, with police investigating whether it violates a longstanding township ordinance banning pit bulls and pit bull mixes.

Two officers were dispatched around 3:30 p.m. Thursday to musician Dan Tillery’s home to follow up on “phone calls alleging the dog is a pit bull and therefore violates city ordinance,” Detroit Dog Rescue officials said in a statement early Friday. “Based on their visual inspection, they concluded he was a pit bull.”

The dog in question — named Sir Wiggleton by the dog rescue and rechristened Diggy — was adopted from the rescue group by Tillery on Monday.

The two quickly went viral after a photograph of the smiling new buddies was posted online. The Facebook post received around 27,000 reactions and was shared more than 6,000 times by Friday morning, leading to nationwide coverage from local papers to “Good Morning America,” People magazine and more.

Tillery and the dog rescue group maintain Diggy is not a pit bull and should remain home.

“Mr. Tillery, who earlier this week had registered and obtained a proper license from Waterford Township, explained (the dog) is an American bulldog and not a pit bull,” rescue officials said in their statement.

Waterford Township Police Lt. Todd Hasselbach said Tillery can clear up the controversy by providing veterinary proof of the dog’s breed.

“I’m looking at a picture of this dog and it looks like a pit to me. I’d write a ticket,” Hasselbach said. “(Tillery) can fight it. We’ve issued tickets before for dogs that looked like a pit, and then (owners) have brought in papers later that shows that it’s not a pit. And we’ve dismissed the ticket.”

The township has had an ordinance banning pit bulls for more than 20 years, Hasselbach said.

Paperwork from the dog rescue, Detroit Animal Control and the city’s veterinarian all indicate that Diggy is an American bulldog, according to the rescue officials.

“If he can show that it’s not (a pit bull), then it’ll be fine,” Hasselbach said when told of the paperwork. “He just has to keep those papers on him because his neighbors are gonna keep calling.”

The rescue’s claim about the dog’s breed conflicts with its Facebook post last month introducing the pup for adoption. In the May 31 post, the rescue group identified the dog — then named Sir Wiggleton — as a pit bull mix.

“Wiggleton is a 2 year old American bulldog/pit bull mix that loves the water and is just a big goofball,” officials wrote in a bid to attract potential owners.

The rescue group and Tillery did not respond to requests for comment Friday.

The new development marks a bump in an already rocky road for Diggy.

He likely was on the streets before being acquired by Detroit Animal Control, according to the rescue. That’s where the rescue group’s executive director, Kristina Rinaldi, encountered him in early March when her nonprofit arrived to gather a dozen canines as part of a transfer effort with the city.

Their van was nearly full, but she doubled back for the pooch that she said had “a sparkle in his eye.”

As months passed and no one expressed interest in the playful pup, Rinaldi decided to feature him in the initial Facebook post, which identified the dog as an American bulldog/pit bull mix.

The post instantly moved Tillery. The 30-year-old musician and his longtime girlfriend, Megan, both adore dogs but had recently moved into a new home without one.

“It was like, ‘We need this guy. He looks like he has a lot of personality,’ ” Tillery said earlier this week.

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