Diggy, an American bulldog owned by Dan Tillery in Waterford Township, Mich. Credit Kristina Rinaldi
Diggy, the block-headed rescue pup with a goofy smile, seemed to be thrilled by his new owner in a selfie that spread across the internet in June.
But Diggyâ€™s online fame nearly cost him his new home. Having seen the viral photo, the police in Waterford Township, Mich., told Dan Tillery, the dogâ€™s owner, that he had violated the townshipâ€™s ban on owning pit bulls and that Diggy would have to be returned to the Detroit Dog Rescue.
That set off a legal battle in which Mr. Tillery, who was charged with an ordinance violation, had what he believed to be a pretty clear defense: Diggy isnâ€™t a pit bull, though he may look like one. Mr. Tillery offered documents from two veterinarians to confirm the dogâ€™s breed, hoping that would prevent the authorities from taking his dog.
Yet Diggyâ€™s status remained uncertain for months. Meanwhile, Diggyâ€™s supporters crowded township meetings, state legislators considered a bill that would prohibit local bans on specific breeds, and more than 100,000 people signed a petition asking officials to let Diggy off the hook.
On Tuesday, Diggy, Mr. Tillery and their supporters got news that would let them smile again: Charges were dismissed in the 51st District Court, assuring that dog and owner could stay together.
â€œImmediately upon receipt of the signed and notarized affidavits from the veterinarians, we agreed that the charges should be dismissed,â€ Margaret Scott, a prosecutor in Waterford Township, said in an email.
â€œWe get to keep our boy,â€ Mr. Tillery wrote in a celebratory Facebook post. â€œHeâ€™s a good boy.â€
It was an ending that satisfied dog lovers who feared that the dog and Mr. Tillery would have to be separated soon after a match that had appeared to start so well.
â€œPeople had really invested their emotions into this story, and itâ€™s beautiful to see so many people care about rescue dogs,â€ said Kristina Rinaldi, the director of the Detroit Dog Rescue, a no-kill shelter.
Mr. Tillery found Diggy in a post on the rescue centerâ€™s Facebook page. Ms. Rinaldi said Diggy nearly missed his chance to be adopted.
Rescue workers occasionally collect dogs from Detroit Animal Control; on one visit, workers loaded 12 dogs into a van before Diggy caught Ms. Rinaldiâ€™s eye, she said. He was in one of the kennels, looking sad, and all of the volunteers said they wanted to give him a chance. With no more room in the van, she loaded the dog into her own car.
He was originally named Sir Wiggleton because of a â€œfunky butt wiggleâ€ he would do when he was excited, she said.
Rescue workers put him through the usual process: He was given medical treatments and socialized, playing with other dogs at day care. The dog rescue would occasionally put his photos on its Facebook page, hoping someone would be inspired to adopt him.
About three months later, Mr. Tillery, who had seen one of the photos, arranged a meet-and-greet with Sir Wiggleton and rescue workers at his home.
Diggy Facebook Post
That viral Facebook post quickly brought trouble. Lt. Todd Hasselbach of the Waterford Township Police told The Detroit News in June that proof of Diggyâ€™s breed could eventually allow Diggy to remain with Mr. Tillery, but that Diggy didnâ€™t pass the eye test.
â€œIâ€™m looking at a picture of this dog and it looks like a pit to me,â€™â€™ he said. â€œIâ€™d write a ticket.â€
The township has since changed the ordinance on pit bulls, allowing veterinarians to determine a dogâ€™s breed instead of police officers, according to The Oakland Press. With an eye toward safety, bans on pit bulls are common in the United States, but are often criticized by animal rights activists and pit bull owners.
Ms. Rinaldi said spending time with Diggy made clear he was no threat. She described him as â€œthe biggest goofballâ€ who â€œloves everybodyâ€ and has â€œbig slappy cheeks.â€
â€œBecause Diggy has a blocky head and a big smile, he was automatically judged like he was dangerous,â€™â€™ she said, â€œand this is probably the sweetest dog youâ€™ll ever know.â€
Continue reading the main story