DIGGY UPDATE! Incremental Progress as Township Tweaks Ordinance

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The face that launched a thousand signatures.
The face that launched a thousand signatures.

It’s been several months since a pair of winning smiles, one human, one canine, captured not only hearts on the Internet, but the eye of Detroit-area officials who thought the dog violated the neighborhood’s ban on pit bulls.

When Dan Tillery adopted Diggy from the Detroit Dog Rescue, he didn’t know he’d become the ground-zero player in helping undo his neighborhood’s breed-specific legislation, but that’s exactly what happened.

Since the snafu began, he and his dog have enjoyed a groundswell of support, and that’s led to a tweak of the ordinance that would have had Diggy evicted had action not been taken.

The prohibition doesn’t change,” Trustee Anthony Bartolotta told the Detroit News, but amendments approved Monday night offer more clarity and “make it easier for the dog owners and the township” when confusion about a breed arises.

Back in June, the eager new owner posted a sweet selfie online and it went super-viral, sparking mostly positive comments. A few neighbors, however, believed Diggy to be at least part pit bull, which violated an ordinance that had been in effect since 1990.

Tillery was cited by police, but his story inspired locals long less-than-enthused about the law into action. A petition supporting Diggy and other breeds made the rounds and hundreds of supporters gathered at a township board meeting that month. Tillery was permitted to keep his dog for 10 more days while a court sorted things out.

Tillery and his girlfriend are still waiting for their day in court.
Tillery and his girlfriend are still waiting for their day in court.

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As of Monday, Tillery said he’s still waiting for a court date. Diggy remains in his care.

Detroit Dog Rescue, which helped secure the adoption, has provided veterinary records that they say prove Diggy is an American bulldog.

Bartolotta said the new ordinance update was not prompted by Diggy’s case alone. “We’ve been discussing this a long time. We knew we had to tweak it a little bit.”

Under the changes the township board approved in a 6-1 vote, Waterford Township doesn’t have to rely only on its animal control officers to determine whether a dog is a pit bull. It also lets owners challenge such an identification through an approved veterinarian.

Some people feel the changes aren’t enough.

“They keep biting at this ordinance and making little changes, but this is an archaic law,” said Kristina Rinaldi, executive director at Detroit Dog Rescue. “There were so many residents of Waterford who spoke and don’t want this pit bull ban.”

Meanwhile, Tillery and Diggy are still waiting.

“The ban for pit bulls in general is ridiculous, so any steps toward making it more lenient are good,” he said.