Diggy’s supporters call to end Waterford pit bull ban

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

Waterford Township — Fans of Diggy the dog spoke out Monday night at a township board meeting seeking to get officials to review a 26-year ordinance banning pit bull brreeds.

Diggy became an internet sensation last week after his owner, Dan Tillery, posted a photo of him and his dog. The comical photo of the unusual-looking Diggy captured the imagination of people beyond Michigan and even was featured on a segment of “Good Morning America” broadcast.

Dan Tillery and Diggy were all smiles online.

But after it was learned Diggy might get the ziggy in Waterford Township because of a 1990 township law banning the breed as part of a dangerous dog ordinance, supporters began a petition in support of him and other breeds. More than 53,000 have signed to date, some of them showing up at the board meeting.

"I don't want my tax dollars spent on enforcing ridiculous rules," said Rachel Brown, one of about 20 residents and others who spoke out at the end of the meeting during public comment.

Brown and others told officials breed discrimination laws are wrongheaded, and have been repealed in communities including Hazel Park and Canton Township. Many became emotional at the microphone, several saying it would make more sense to create and enforce ordinances on aggressive animals or owners who mistreat their pets. Several worked with area dog rescue groups and said chances were greater at being bitten by a Chihuahua or a dachshund than a pit bull.

"You need to make owners responsible for their dogs," said Deborah Laurie of Keego Harbor, who works with Homefurever, a Detroit foster-based dog rescue group,

"Education and training is key — all dogs need training," said Laurie, whose boyfriend, Craig Sytsma was mauled to death by two large Cane Corsos in 2014 as he jogged on a rural road in Metamora.

"Craig would say the same thing if he was here today — we used to have several rescue dogs."

Peacemaker Pup-Parade participants pound the pavement Monday in support of Waterford Township adjusting its dog ordinance to avoid singling out breeds. Supervisor Gary Wall says petitions with 50,000 signatures, reportedly from across the country, have been turned in.

Township Supervisor Gary Wall told the crowd of nearly 300 who attended the meeting, some occasionally chanting "Leave Dan and Diggy alone," that for now, the township would work at making its current ordinance as "consistent as possible."

Police Chief Scott Underwood said Tillery was cited for possessing and owning a pit bull mix dog but Tillery would be permitted to keep his dog until the matter is decided in court sometime in the next 10 days.

Pamela Evans said "every dog should be judged by their own character" and another, Amber McKee, told officials: "You are telling people their dogs, who are like their children, are monsters. Don't you think that's a bit too much?"

"I think pit bulls have an undeserved bad reputation," said James Freeman, who drove "an hour and a half" from Brownstown Township to attend Monday's meeting.

"Dogs are like a member of the family," said Freeman, who has a pit bull. "If I wanted to move to Waterford I couldn't because they won't let me have my dog and I'm not going to give him up."

Freeman said he believes the ordinance issue is just starting to heat up.

Another resident, Michael Jackson, noted how he had a boxer and "what’s to say a police officer won't come to my house and say it’s a bad dog?

"I've never met a bad pit bull, but I've met a lot of bad people."

mmartindale@detroitnews.com

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