Best Friends Blog

Viral adoption story highlights absurdity of breed discrimination

Pit bull terrier with two childrenIt was a simple photo of Waterford, Michigan, resident Dan Tillery with his newly adopted dog Sir Wiggleton lying on the ground, smiling ear to ear. But it took the internet by storm — garnering more than 6,700 shares on Facebook.

The post spurred on thousands of news articles from around the world and it’s the kind of adoption story that has become the gold standard for animal welfare in this digital age. Best Friends and others urge organizations to use these kinds of images to tell the story of adoption so that others will make the same choice. It’s endearing, sweet and shows the power of the bond we have with animals.

Unfortunately, the popularity of this photo has caused problems for Dan and his new pup (who has been renamed Diggy). That’s because Waterford, a town located about an hour northwest of Detroit, has a law that bans the ownership of certain breeds of dogs. So when they caught wind of the story, the authorities visited Dan’s house and according to local news reports, “determined Diggy is a pit bull, therefore banned in the township.”

The case is still progressing, and Dan recently received a citation that carries a possible fine of $500. Next is an appearance in court, where he will have to present evidence that Diggy is not a pit bull and should be allowed to stay. A judge will ultimately determine Diggy’s fate. Before we go any further, let’s all watch this video of Diggy so we have a good idea of this dangerous dog we’re talking about.

If you work in adoptions, you may wonder why the rescue organization adopted Diggy to someone who lived in a town with a breed-discriminatory law in the first place. And while that may be a reasonable and natural reaction, this is actually an important moment in our fight to outlaw breed discrimination in Michigan.

Best Friends has been working with the Make Michigan Next coalition on getting a statewide bill passed that would ban breed discrimination in Waterford and any other Michigan community. We all know that every dog (just like every person) is an individual and should be evaluated as an individual, not as a category. Judgments about Diggy’s worthiness to live in Waterford shouldn’t come down to some archaic American Kennel Club breed characteristics (yes, that is actually what Waterford uses). It should always be about Diggy’s behavior and that of his owner.

This story has reverberated throughout the world and has put a spotlight on a backward policy that is in place not only in Waterford, but in more than 20 other communities in Michigan. We’d like to thank Dan and Diggy for standing up and speaking out — not just for themselves, but for every family that has ever been in this same unbelievably tragic situation. We know that together we can end breed discrimination in Michigan and other states.

Our bill in the Mitten State has passed in the Senate and is headed for the House committee. If you’re in Michigan, please click here to take action and have your voice heard. If you’re not in Michigan, we still need your support to help us save lives. If you aren’t receiving our action alerts, please just take a few moments to click here and sign up.

As we often say, politics is not a spectator sport. Dan and Diggy certainly are not spectating from the sidelines, so it’s important for them to know that their friends at Best Friends have their back.

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Francis Battista
Best Friends Animal Society

  • Pingback: Diggy the Dog Not a Pitbull | The Best Friends Blog()

  • ejaneperalta

    Useful post ! For my two cents if others a CMS-40B , my kids filled a blank version here

  • Kathi

    BDL makes me sick to my stomach. I live NW of Denver, who’s mayor is staunchly opposed to reversing their ridiculous, ineffective laws. If my dog isn’t welcome in a community then apparently neither are my tax dollars. Wake up people – BDL doesn’t work! Placing blame at the feet of the irresponsible owners is what needs to happen.

  • Bob in NY

    We have struggled for decades to end racism and profiling on the basis of the essential irrational notion that race determines behavior…. ” Breedism” is little different ,,, fact, it is FAR easier to train a dog into “good” behavior than a human being…. and PLEASE….stop with the idiocy about the good of the community….99/’100ths of any community will have NO contact with any single “potentially troublesome” dog. Make the owners responsible…not the animal.

  • km0221

    They don’t care how good the majority of these dogs are they are ignorant. if by chance Diggy has any AST in his dna he will be banned regardless

    • Janet Diehl

      What is AST?
      I have had a Chow-mix dog for 13 years; Chows are often on ban lists too. My Rosie is gentle, reserved but friendly, & loves to be petted by adults & children. Judge the individual dog, not the whole breed. For the record, there is no Pitbull breed. Usually they are mixtures of various breeds. Watch the old Our Gang Comedies, the friendly dog is the type often called a pitbull. It is not the dogs that are ignorant, it’s people.

      • km0221

        AST is an American Staffordshire Terrier …. the proper name for a pit bull.

  • Nicole Corrado

    This kind of thing happens in Ontario, and will soon happen in Quebec.