Detroit — November 8, 2011 at 9:46 pm

Detroit’s latest hero: Ace the Pit Bull. Will the City of Detroit kill him?


This little guy is “Ace”. Ace was found near an Ace Hardware store in Detroit last Friday, unbelievably emaciated and near death. He was turned over to Detroit Animal Control who operate under a Detroit law that says they must hold him for four days unless the owner retrieves him. After that, he will be euthanized because adoption of pit bulls to non-owners is not allowed in the city.

Ace’s story has taken off like wildfire. A Facebook page was created. The page had around 4,000 likes this morning. As I type this Tuesday evening, it has almost 7,300 (300+ just while I was writing it.) An online petition was put up. It currently has over 5,700.

Why the hue and cry? Because there are animal rescuers ready, willing and able to take Ace and rehabilitate him back to health. These are certified, trained dog lovers who have reached out to take a personal interest in helping Ace. The group, the K9 Stray Rescue League, has volunteers speaking with media and working with the Detroit City Council in an effort to resolve this situation in a way that prevents the animal shelter from killing Ace. The Detroit Humane Society and the Detroit Dog Rescue have also offered to rescue him. The Facebook page is filled with offers of people willing to bring this dog in and nurse him back to health.

Right now, things don’t look so good. At a City Council meeting today, City Council President Charles Pugh took up the cause of Ace and asked that a resolution be drafted that would shield the city from any liability and allow Ace to be adopted. Because of a law, an exception will need to be made.

The fate of Ace the dog is still up in the air. Tuesday, Detroit City Council drafted a resolution to save the stray’s life, but it may not be enough.

“It seems like a simple request. If we can make sure that we are not liable for what happens with the dog if we were to transfer it to this rescue league, then why is that such a big deal?” City Council President Charles Pugh said. […]

Tereasa Michalak showed reporters a license from the Department of Agriculture to prove her group, K-9 Strays, is legitimate. They’re asking for Ace to be transferred to their care, taking cost and liability away from the city. […]

Later Tuesday, Michalak and her group met with a representative from the Health Department.

“They told me they would not be breaking any of the procedures that are currently in place, that they will not release any kind of pit bull, including Ace,” Michalak told us.

The group is now considering legal action against the city. For now, the city’s policy sticks. Thursday will be the end of four business days. Friday, Ace is scheduled to be euthanized.

Ace’s compelling story is resurrecting an on-going debate about breed-specific bans of particular types of dogs. Earlier this year, Rep. Timothy Bledsoe (D-Grosse Pointe) sponsored a bill, Michigan House Bill 4714, that would ban ownership of pit bull breeds (and mixes) in Michigan within ten years. Outside of simple common sense, there is ample evidence and significant studies that show that aggressive dog behavior toward humans is not related to breed but to how the dog is raised.

Fortunately, Bledsoe’s bill is going nowhere. Rep. Hugh Crawford (R-Novi), chair of the Michigan House Regulatory Reform Committee where Bledsoe’s ill-informed bill sits isn’t having it.

It was assigned to my committee and I have no intention of running the bill through the committee, particularly at this time…As a politician, I’ve learned never to say never, because some day there may be a compelling reason to take testimony on this.

But I don’t think it’s necessary for our state to be in the dog policing business. We don’t need a ban on a particular breed for life here in the next 10 years, which is what the bill was. I have no intention of hearing it.

There are numerous municipalities across Michigan that do have pit bull bans or where there are restrictions against adoption that ensure the destruction of strays. As unfortunate as Ace’s situation is, it is having the desirable impact of bringing the conversation back into the forefront. Council President Pugh, at least, is bringing some common sense to the table:

“We don’t want our policy to get in the way of the dog’s life,” Pugh said. “If we can save the dog, then let’s save the dog.”

Council is expected to vote on a resolution during today’s session and members said they’d like to re-examine the pit bull policy at a later date.

Ace’s plight is also giving folks like Tereasa Michalak and her group the opportunity to advocate for changing the law that destroys animals who could be saved. Her group is meeting with Detroit Mayor Bing and “will be sitting down after the holidays with the city to try to change the policy and allow shelter to shelter rescues”.

This is a tough story for my wife Anne and I to follow. This past summer we lost our pit bull mix, Hara (pictured on the right.) I had never been a pit bull-lover before I met her but she soon became my biggest fan and I hers. I came to love her probably more than any other pet I’ve ever had. Gentle around people, loving, affectionate and obedient, Hara won me over.

I understand the argument and even fear that some have about specific dog breeds. For many years it was German Shepherds. Then it was Doberman Pinschers. Then it was Rottweilers. Now its Pit Bulls. But, in every case, the desire to ban these animals arises from the fact that they happen to be the “attack dog du jour” for the group of people that desire to have powerful, vicious, aggressive dogs. The dogs aren’t inherently aggressive toward people; they are trained from birth to be that way. The fault lies with those that bring them up to be vicious and not with the dogs themselves. Banning these animals does not address the root cause: humans who raise attack dogs. Pit bulls aren’t the first breed to bred this way and they most certainly will not be the last.

I am hopeful that the animal rescue groups working on behalf of Ace will ultimately be successful and that he will not be killed by the City of Detroit this week. He seems to me to be the Poster Dog for moving past breed-specific laws to a more sensible approach that actually saves dogs of all breeds. Wouldn’t it be amazing if this little guy was the catalyst for that?

This story has been updated HERE.

  • Jbheitz

    A very well done story.  I hope it gets the right person’s attention.

  • brenda white

    I hope and pray every eye reads and understands this story and understands that it is “OUR BREED” that is at fault for the sometime temperament of breed specific dogs. We can even raise our children to be bullies and hateful and aggressive. What makes us think we cannot raise an animal to be the same. Wake up! This is America! Just because some of us have the need to be aggressive or show our superiority doesn’t mean we have to train someone or something else to do our dirty work for us. get a punching bag, or take up a specific sport that helps support that urge.. there is no excuse for abuse!!

  • Chelseaannah

    I have a pitbull sleeping right here in the room with me and she is SUCH a sweetie. It’s ridiculous that the detroit animal control will not adopt out this animal clearly in need because of his breed. That’s like refusing a person into a hospital because of their color!!!! Utterly ridiculous. Just let the shelters take him and adopt him out, why the need to kill him? I just don’t get it.

  • Kristy Graham

    This is  story that needs to be told.  Please read.

  • PartenskiMargaret

    I am such an animal rights activist as I have never even killed a squirrel and have swerved to avoid birds while driving. I can’t watch anything regarding animals because it really hurts my feelings. Even looking further into this story I knew I was getting myself into something I just can’t deal with, although I know the heart-wrenching reality of it. I will do anything to save this dog. Does anyone have any suggestions? What if I were the one who went and claimed it as it’s owner?

    • Apparently that’s been happening throughout the day. Ace suddenly has dozens of “owners” LOL!

  • Thank you for addressing this topic. I am impressed that you were able to maintain your composure. I have not been able to contain my despair but I am encouraged by the outpouring of support. I hope Ace’s plight makes a different for the many dog DAC comes into contact with in the future.

  • PitLover

    Thank you for presenting not only Ace’s situation, but placing it into the larger context of what this means for breed-specific legislation. I hope your correct in your optimism for Ace’s future, as well as him being the possible impetus for people realizing that we should be focusing on owners and not the breed.

  • Celtic_heart

    I am from Germany and we have rules for shelters. The first: All our shelters are NO-kill shelters. No shelter and no Vet is allowed to euthernaze a healthy animal. Since some months we have new rules for NEW dogowners. They have to do some kind of training and will receive a certificate. They learn the body language of a dog and how do handle dogs – because misbehaviour of dogs is caused by misbehaviour of the owners. A basic statement in these new rules is: SCIENCE COULDN`T PROOF, THAT ONE DOGBREED HAS MORE AGRESSIV POTENTIAL THAN THE OTHERS.   It is not the fault of the dogs, but of the owners, so the owners need to be trained as well. Every dog has to be chipped, so that owners cant get rid of them so easily (f. e. getting rid of the former X-mas puppy). Every dog has to have a liability insurance.  
    We try to bring the responsibility for an animal into the consciousness´ of the owner. 
    Another rule: My hometown is the first city in Germany with the rule, that EVERY cat has to be neutered! 

    I hope, other counties and countries will follow these examples. 

    Fingers crossed for Ace in Detroit and for Lennox in Irland (who was taken away from his owners 1 one year ago due to being a pitbreed) and for all the other poor souls in shelters around the world. 

  • Citizen Group

    I hope Ace is alive & gets released to a caring rescue group. If he’s already dead, I hope his death will not be in vain and people will become outraged and aware of the failed and broken model of animal sheltering that our cities continue to use. Why should our tax dollars be used to prop up a failed system when it IS possible to change it, like a growing number of cities are doing?!!!  Cities should be setting an example and demonstrates responsible and caring ownership. When they kill animals for reasons of space, population control or breed, they send the message that pets are disposable!  More people need to get involved…

    The No Kill Advocacy Center and No Kill Nation are excited to announce the launch of their joint campaign to create a No Kill nation: Rescue Five-O. Working with grassroots activists across the country, Rescue Five-0 will seek the introduction and passage of The Companion Animal Protection Act (CAPA) in every state, model legislation which mandates the implementation of the proven life-saving programs collectively known as “The No Kill Equation.”

    I don’t know if there are any similarities to the case of “Where’s Kapone?” or not, except that the regressive sheltering system is responsible. Arbitrary policies that kill animals need to be changed. There are proven alternatives.”Where’s Kapone?”

    This is National Shelter Reform Week. Pets can’t wait any longer. They need people to step up and get the Companion Animal Protection Act introduced as a state law so that EVERY shelter is legally required to actually *shelter* pets. Example: Why NC needs CAPA,

    National Shelter Reform Week – Why we need to reform shelters (Warning: Some disturbing photos about what shelters allow to happen.) These are places that take your taxes or donations, then blame the PUBLIC for what goes on there!!!

    Success is possible!  News about progress and successful communities in the US & elsewhere.

    The KC Dog Blog posts a lot of research on the ineffectiveness of BSL (breed bans) and mandatory laws,

    The National Canine Research Council has expert info on better dog legislation. Includes info on breed bans and how they make our communities more dangerous, increase costs & other negative effects.

    Media, Myth and Politics: how media has shaped our impression of dogs,  
    Can download a free copy of The Pit Bull Placebo: The Media, Myths, and Politics of Canine Aggression, by Karen Delise for a full understanding of the topic.

    An increasing number of agencies… are emphasizing service to community pet owners, rather than just the traditional code enforcement role. This means safer communities, much greater public support and compliance and good value for taxpayers, cities and pet owners,  With proper leadership, cities can have Responsible Pet Owner laws which will also remove barriers to creating a no kill community.

  • C.

    I think that this is well done…but I think there’s another component to this problem that has not been fully discussed.  If anything said above resonates with me the most, it is, “Banning these animals does not address the root cause: humans who raise attack dogs.”. 
    A component to the law is not just because Pittbulls are considered an aggressive breed, but because there is a real concern of Pitts getting into the wrong hands.  There is a real and definitive problem with fight rings in Michigan.  Speaking as someone who used to work for the Michigan Humane Societies, it is very difficult for staff members to have to carry out this law.  It’s definitely not something we wanted to do.  And its heartbreaking to have to be the one to enforce it. Many of the staff members at the shelter I worked at were loving Pittbull owners themselves, with loving non-aggressive Pittbulls. I cannot begin to tell you how much I agree passionately that the laws need to be changed so that Pitts do not have an automatic death sentence once being “rescued”. But I don’t think changing the law is strictly enough. We also need to make sure that we have a good enough vetting process on future Pitt owners so that we’re not condemning them all over again.  Its every staff member’s worst fear to see a dog come back after getting into the wrong hands.  Dogs that have been made overtly aggressive or been destroyed and beaten as being the scape goat.  If rescues such as K-9 Strays are able to help out and take the time to find proper loving homes for these dogs, then I can see no better solution.  

    It could happen with any dog leaving the shelter, but because of the Pittbull fighting rings throughout the state, Pitts are at an extremely high risk.  If we can help eliminate the risk, we can help change the law.  

  • Aligator1313

    Save the damn dog and found who dumped him and puit the person down. I’m so sick of people and states plus towns or cities being so damn heartless.