“Sir Wiggleton” a part American bulldog and part “other” mutt was picked up off the streets in Detroit in 2016 and kept in a small animal control enclosure awaiting adoption. He sat in that small space for nearly 100 days before Detroit Dog Rescue, a no-kill shelter, came and rescued him.


At the end of May that year the group posted a picture of Sir Wiggleton to their Facebook page and almost immediately his adorable face took social media by storm. Then, a local musician named Dan Tillery caught a glimpse of him, adopted him, and renamed him Diggy.

“On their first day together at Tillery’s home in Waterford, Mich., Tillery and Diggy took a goofball selfie and gave it to Detroit Dog Rescue. The group, which understands that photos of well-groomed men and cute animals have great power, decided that the joint Tillery-Diggy snapshot was destined for nothing less than breaking the Internet, putting Diggy in the same company as Taylor Swift, color-changing dresses and Kim Kardashian as would-be destroyers of the delocalized communications technology.

The Internet remained intact, but the photo caught social media fire, as fans shared it thousands of times. The duo scored celebrity treatment by People magazine and wound up on ABC News, with Tillery on the guitar and Diggy chewing on a stick.”1

However, the picture also caught the attention of the Waterford Township Police Department in Michigan, a township where certain dog breeds are outlawed, under a type of ordinance known as breed-specific legislation, or BSL. (The township passed its first ban on pit bull terriers, eventually prohibiting dogs with characteristics that “substantially conform to the breed standards established by the American Kennel Club for American Staffordshire Terriers or Staffordshire Bull Terriers.”2)


While supporters of BSL argue that some dog breeds are inherently riskier than others “because of their size or propensity for aggression” some geneticists argue that “even if the dogs fought in pits a century ago, claims that fighting DNA remains baked into their genomes are ‘ludicrous.'”3 And, interestingly, “one study of four Florida shelters determined that every other pooch labeled a pit bull had no such genetic ancestry.”4

The Waterford Police visited Tillery at his home and found the dog to be kind and stable but after neighbors complained, police insisted that the dog would have to leave. (Get this: Detroit Dog Rescue had called Waterford Township before Diggy’s adoption to make sure that an American bulldog would be welcome. At that time they let them know that the vet assessment had determined Diggy was an American bulldog- totally distinct from a Staffordshire terrier- and town officials responded that only dogs determined to be pit bulls were forbidden.)


Thankfully, things worked out for the duo, but the issue highlights the fact that misinformation about pit bulls is still present in people’s minds and that very often, shelters and officials make assumptions about dogs genetic code that simply isn’t true.

What do you think about pit bulls? Do you support bans on them? Would you ever own one?

Sources and References

  1. The Washington Post, June 13, 2016.
  2. The Washington Post, June 13, 2016.
  3. The Washington Post, June 13, 2016.
  4. The Washington Post, June 13, 2016.