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.