Couple Find Themselves in Legal Battle After Adopting a Rescue Pup
| LAST UPDATE 10/20/2022
Adopting a dog from a shelter can be a life-changing decision for many reasons. But this Michigan couple could never have expected the chain of events that would follow after finding their dream rescue pup.
Where It All Began
It all started when a little dog was picked up by animal control on the streets of Detroit, Michigan. The Detroit Dog Rescue (DDR) came to collect the stray pups, finding a particularly sad face between them all.
Unfortunately, since he was the last dog to be brought into the rescue van, there wasn’t much place for him. So, the rescuers had to seclude him until they could find another solution. Unknowing of how big of a controversy the little guy would spark.
He Deserved a Chance
Things turned around for the little pup when Kristina Rinaldi, Detroit Dog Rescue’s executive director, happened to be at work that day. When she saw his beautiful but hopeless face, she was deeply saddened. She pleaded with the volunteers to make space for him, because she believed he deserved a chance.
Despite his undeniable charm and the support of the other rescuers, there was simply no space for him. So, Rinaldi decided to take charge and drove the pup to the pound herself. Little did she know, her relatively small move would be an essential piece of a much larger puzzle.
He Was Named Sir Wiggleton
Rinaldi knew she saw something special in the pup, and the shelter pretty much confirmed it. The dog became a hit as he wowed the whole pound with his unique personality. Many of the volunteers even said that they'd never met such a character.
Little by little, the pup opened himself up to his rescuers, and they found all sorts of unique habits he had. For one, whenever he got excited he did a really funny dance with his tail. They all thought he was so adorable, they collectively decided to name him "Sir Wiggleton."
Waiting for Adoption
The volunteer workers gave Sir Wiggleton the standard procedure, like the rest of the dogs in their pound. They gave him vaccinations and some social therapy as they posted pictures of him on their Facebook page in hopes of having him adopted. They thought it would be a matter of minutes for this little guy, but they were wrong.
Months went by, and although the volunteers had fallen in love with Sir Wiggleton, adopters had yet to feel the same. Saddened by the reality of him not being picked for, the shelter workers were confused. How could such a unique dog not find a loving home?
The Couple that Changed Everything
Some 40 miles away, in Waterford Township, a musician named Dan Tillery and his girlfriend had just moved in together. They quickly grabbed the opportunity, finally moving out of a rented house with many rules. One of them being a bumming "no pets allowed."
Dan always wanted to have a pup as part of his family. It was something that he longed for throughout his childhood. Finally, being ready to fulfill his dream, he eagerly went for it the moment it was possible. After searching for adoption centers, he found the Detroit Dog Rescue’s page.
They Found Him on Facebook
Surfing through the pound's Facebook page, they found pictures of this unusually quirky little pup. It only took a matter of minutes to completely sway their hearts away, and the couple knew at that very moment that they wanted him. Who was this Sir Wiggleton?
Being thrilled about finding their new dog online, they couldn't help but start planning the future with him. From buying his food bowl to picking out the perfect doggy-bed. They had no doubt that everything would be as great as it already seemed to be.
Ready to Adopt
The one-hour drive to the pound didn't impact their excitement at all. Arriving in anticipation to find their online-companion, they gushed to the reception desk. Without skipping a heartbeat, they declared that they were there for the one and only; Sir Wiggleton.
Pleased to know that their adoption campaigning worked, the rescuers were happy for several reasons. They handed over Sir Wiggleton to the excited couple, but not yet for good. As part of their policy, they had to take the newly adopted dog for a visit to see if he liked his new home.
He Found a New Home
Enduring the long drive back, the pup finally arrived at his potential new home. The couple, who were crossing fingers hoping for the dog to feel comfortable, quickly received a sign of relief. The test was passed with flying colors, and Sir Wiggleton looked as happy as he could be.
Eager to seal the deal, they excitedly signed the adoption papers, renaming their new family member, "Diggy." After almost 3 long months of waiting in the shelter, it seemed like Diggy finally found his happy ending. It seemed like nothing could go wrong, but that would all change.
Love at First Bark
The family of three couldn't have been more thrilled! They found themselves enjoying every moment ever since Diggy came into their lives. The energetic dog quickly learned new ways to show his affection; like how he woke up Dan in the morning with a big smoochie lick.
As if it was a match made in heaven, the dream-team were ready to live their lives happily ever after. Like any other proud dog-parents, the couple shared pictures of their special pup with all of their friends in the online world. For a moment, everything seemed to fall in the right place.
Diggy Became a Social Media Pup-Star
Having such a camera-loving dog, it almost seemed selfish to keep these adorable pictures to themselves! The couple understandably wanted to share all of Diggy's quirky moments for all their friends to see. They thought the rest of the world deserved to get some of his cuteness too.
Their friends were not the only ones to enjoy some of Diggy's charm, but the Detroit Dog Rescue followed the couple too. The shelter hadn't forgotten about their little Sir Wiggleton and wanted to keep up with him. They even reposted pictures of Diggy on their Facebook fan page.
When the Detroit Dog Rescue uploaded the picture of Dan and his newly found companion, they never expected the overwhelming reaction it would receive. To their amazement, it became a hit, getting over 24,000 likes in a week. The image went so viral that even Good Morning America asked to air it on their show.
With all of its attention, the picture was about to have some bad consenquences to the dismay of both the couple and the Detroit Dog Rescue team. With nobody ready for such a reaction, they were stunned to find out that some of the viewers took it in a bad way.
The Wrong Kind of Attention
An anonymous complaint was sent to the Waterford Township police department. Apparently, something about Diggy seemed off to some off to those who saw the picture, which made them think that Dan was doing something illegal. The police were even directed to Dan's home.
Dan and his girlfriend were unaware of what was going on and continued with their happy lives, enjoying every moment with Diggy. The bonding and playing that the family of three couldn't get enough of was suddenly stopped when their front doorbell rang.
The Police Arrived at Their Front Door
Dan went over to answer the door, and to his complete dismay, he saw two cops in front of him. The officers told him that they came because of a complaint in relation to the Facebook post. Dan was perplexed. What on earth could have been wrong with the picture?
The picture was a sweet portrait of the couple's relationship with Diggy, for all Dan knew. Regardless of what he thought, the officers told him that he had violated the law and that there would be consequences for his actions. Dan couldn't help but be dubious and confused.
They Were Accused of a Crime
Nothing could have prepared Dan and his girlfriend for this shocking accusation. The police told the couple that Waterford Township inaugurated a law banning pit bulls in 1990, and ever since, anyone who had one was to be heavily fined. Diggy, being a beautiful pit bull, was the cause for concern.
Therefore, the police accused Dan of breaking the law. They also explained to the shocked couple that pit bulls had a stigma for a reason. Dan couldn't believe he was hearing such accusations about Diggy, who was far from what the officers were saying.
The Officers Doubted Themselves
The police officers carefully approached the couples' pit bull, with the bad reputation this breed of dog had in mind. Being his energetic self, Diggy jumped up and licked their faces in glee, which was his standard way of saying "Hi." Along with his excited wiggle-dance, of course.
Dan and his girlfriend were not surprised at how Diggy greeted the police officers, but the cops sure were. It even managed to raise doubts about the law the policemen were enforcing. But, being law-abiding officers, they gave Dan a tough decision to make.
The Harsh Ultimatum
The officers gave Dan an extremely difficult ultimatum: Either give up his beloved pit bull or face the consequences of his actions. Dan knew that they were just enforcing the law, but he was stuck between a rock and a hard place as he'd already fallen in love.
Diggy was like a son to Dan and his girlfriend, feeling like they really were a family of three. He couldn't just decide what to do on the spot. How could he give up his dog like that? The officers, in the end, gave him a deadline which was due in less than a week.
How Do You Plea?
As the days passed, Dan's deadline grew closer. He couldn't accept having to give away his dog, so he formally refused. On June 13, 2016, he was given a ticket by the police department of Waterford Township for owning a "dangerous" pit bull, an illegal act since 1990.
Dan felt like his life was falling out of his hands, desperate for assistance. He called Kristina Rinaldi from the DDR to ask if she could help. She instantly agreed to assist him, and together they went to appeal at the police station, but they weren't prepared for the outcome.
A $500 Fine
Dan and Kristina went to the police station to speak their minds, but it seemed like nothing would help them this time. The officers present told them that Dan would receive a ticket for violating Waterford Township law because he refused to give up Diggy.
Dan was slammed with a fine of $500. Not wanting to take this injustice from his perspective, Dan brought up an important point. He told the police officers that there was one little overlooked fact that could change the scenario and the accusation completely.
Was Diggy Actually a Bull Dog?
The little overlooked detail was that Diggy was, in fact, a bulldog and not a pit bull. And if it wasn't enough, these exact words were stated in the adoption papers he'd signed. Kristina thankfully brought documents with her to the police station for everyone to see.
With his stance firmly in place, Dan told the police that he would not succumb to this ridiculous accusation. He received the ticket that the police officers told him that he would get, but the ambitious dog-father knew that it was the beginning of fight that he would win.
He Started a Movement
Dan Tillery had quite a large following on his social media, owing to his music career and the original viral photo of him and Diggy. He posted his nightmare situation online with the hopes that someone who was able to help would offer some advice.
His loyal followers tried to help the desperate dog owner by reposting and commenting. The word managed to spread, so much so, that the Michigan Humane Society heard about the situation. Noticing the considerable backing Dan had, they decided to help too.
Fighting for What They Believe in
Dan's active supporters took everything a step further and drafted an online petition. They were understandably displeased with the trouble their favorite musician had to deal with. Even more so considering the fact that Diggy was not even the dog breed banned in the law.
The petition stated that pit bulls were not a violent breed, but they could become so with mistreatment, as with every other type of canine. The signatures were all against the law's accusation, but the question still remained: Would the court accept their plea?
54 000 Signatures
As if his last viral post on the DDR homepage didn't get enough attention, Dan was stoked to find an overwhelming response for his case. The petition received over 54,000 signatures in just a few days. Feeling like tides were turning to his advantage, Dan hired a lawyer to join his cause.
Dan developed a sense of determination, invigorated by the thrush of his supporter's energy backing him up. He and his girlfriend never expected things to blow up this way, but they weren't going to let go of their precious boy. They were ready to fight all the way to save Diggy.
Overcoming the Law, Using the Law
Having an ace up their sleeves, Kristina knew about the prohibition on pit bulls in Dan’s township. Even more, she had contacted the local authorities to make sure they allowed Diggy's breed of Bulldogs before the adoption took place, just to make sure everything was in order.
Dan had Diggy officially registered as an American Bulldog before the police were part of the picture. All this time, the police officers hadn't taken Dan's papers into account. But things were looking different now. What would the court say about this?
Taking It To the Town Hall
The Watertown hall was selected to be the place of the hearing. Dan and his girlfriend didn't expect that more than 100 supporters would show up, but they came by the bus-load. Some of them even drove almost two hours to be able to take part in the event.
The controversial issue with Diggy and Dan's post, which brought it to the spolight, had such a wide backing with people who wanted to help. They all came chanting their dismay towards the 1990 legislation outside the town hall. From that moment, Dan started to believe there may be justice in the world.
Dog Behavior Experts Had Their Backs
Of the seemingly endless people who supported Dan outside the town hall, dog shelter workers and experts came forth to help with their expertise. They all had more experience with canine behavior and knowledge of the differences between breeds. They wanted to take a shot at helping the cause.
These experts turned out to be very valuable to the fight against the legislation. They had very bold statements like how people are more likely to get bitten by other breeds rather than a pit bull. They also reiterated there that a pit bull's behavior is instilled through their owner's treatment.
But Could Statistics Back Them up Too?
At that time, in 2016, statistics showed that there were a total of 41 fatalities from dog attacks in the United States. Out of the instances, more than half (22 out of the 41) were caused by pit bulls. It seemed to everyone's dismay that the data was against their cause.
But regardless of the statistics, Dan and everyone who came to support him had to reiterate to the court the crucial point: A pit bull's behavior is directly impacted by the owners and their treatment. And even more so, they had to remind the court that Diggy wasn't even a pit bull!
Justice Was Finally Served
After three whole months of legal battles, September 2016 saw the 51st District Court settle the case and end Diggy's removal order from his home. Considering his unique, happy-go-lucky personality, which was actually caught on tape and in a cute picture like this one.
Dan, his girlfriend, and Giddy won their case. It actually changed the law in Waterford Township; from then on, it is required that only professionals, such as vets, shall be trusted to determine the dog's breed. The family of three decided that it was time to rejoice in their victory!
Taking Him Back Home
After declaring their victory winning the case for Diggy, the couple took their dog back to their house. It almost felt surreal for them as they couldn't believe that they were together in peace again. Both of them understandably felt grateful for what they had achieved.
Diggy seemed like he was just as happy as the young couple was, at the end of all the drama that was surrounding them. It felt like he was smiling and wagging his cute little tail much more than often. It seemed like the family of three were the happiest they ever could've been.
A Puppucino Date!
After almost losing his beloved dog, Dan couldn't afford to spend a minute without him. Ever since he came back home, the proud dog owner took his fury friend wherever he would go, including Starbucks. The forever happy boy would even get his very own Puppuccino ordered for him!
Dan found a new sense of gratitude for what he had. After everything that happened in his fight to keep his beloved Giddy, he decided to make the memory a permanent one. He tattooed his arm with a portrait of Diggy, so that he would forever remember the story.
Happily Ever After
It may be bewildering to some how anybody could think badly of such an eccentric pup like Diggy, just like it confused Dan and his supporters. Looking at pictures like the one below, could warm many people's hearts. But perhaps everything happens for a reason.
All Dan ever wanted to do was to give a dog like Diggy love and warmth. After fighting for his dog, he opened up opportunities for many more wanting to give pit bulls and bulldogs love. Regardless, at the end of the day, this happy family really did live happily ever after.