GROSSE POINTE SHORES, Mich. (FOX 2) - Michigan Humane President and CEO Matt Pepper reacted to the decision to ban pit bulls in Grosse Pointe Shores, saying the decision "is the wrong message and the wrong issue."
The city council narrowly approved the ban during its meeting Tuesday night.
This comes after a small dog was attacked by a pit bull in June and had to have its leg amputated.
"In the heat of the moment, it is easy to put simple answers, like a breed ban, to more complex issues. In reality, every action reported can be addressed with existing laws. They simply need to be enforced – fairly and uniformly," Pepper wrote.
Once the ban was proposed, more than 300 people signed a petition against it, calling the ban discrimination. However, others who support the ban say it's about keeping the community safe.
This ban will not apply to people who already have pit bulls that are registered in the city but will impact more from being brought into Grosse Pointe Shores. The ban is expected to take effect in about a month.
As a result of this ban, Pepper said Michigan Humane will be moving its annual Mutt March out of the city. It has been held at the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House in Grosse Pointe Shores since 1989.
Pepper said he sent a letter to the mayor and city council of Grosse Pointe Shores telling them that Michigan Humane does not support breed-specific bans.
"The immediate impact of the decision to ban pit bulls is that this celebration in Grosse Pointe Shores is no longer on the table. We will be immediately forced to identify a more inclusive community to host our event," Pepper wrote.
He noted that a pit bull ban could lead to even more issues.
"They are attempting to address a hypothetical future incident as opposed to anything that has actually happened. Most people would prefer the law enforcement in their community to respond to more pressing items than what a dog looks like – something they are not trained to do," Pepper wrote. "There is the issue of what defines a pit bull and identifying them – 'pit bull' is a term for a collective of breeds pulled together in a catch-all name. Breed-specific bans do not address the right issues."
Read Pepper's full statement:
"Earlier this summer, I wrote about Grosse Pointe Shores’ proposed ban on pit bulls. Last night, I was disappointed to hear that the ban was passed by the city council.
"I want to start by laying out my background because I think it is relevant to this issue. For the past nine years, I have served as the President & CEO for Michigan Humane. We consider ourselves a human-centered animal welfare organization, and our mission is directly linked to the health and safety of everyone, both people and pets, in our community. Prior to my time here, my career was spent in municipal animal control in New Mexico, Tennessee, Louisiana, and Michigan. In that role, while animals played a critical role, public safety was my priority.
"On June 4, 2023, a couple walking their small dog in Grosse Pointe Shores was attacked by another dog that had gotten loose from a neighboring property. The attacking dog was identified as a pit bull and the dog that was attacked ended up with injuries that ultimately required amputation of one of its legs. A horrific experience for sure, and we hope for a speedy recovery for everyone involved.
"As a result of that incident, the city of Grosse Pointe Shores proposed a ban on pit bulls. On September 19, the city council voted 4-3 to enact a "pit bull" ban in Grosse Pointe Shores effective immediately. Michigan Humane does not support breed-specific legislation, a point I shared in a letter to the mayor and city council of Grosse Pointe Shores.
"These types of bans are often considered in response to a single incident – as is the case here in Grosse Pointe Shores. In the heat of the moment, it is easy to put simple answers, like a breed ban, to more complex issues. In reality, every action reported can be addressed with existing laws. They simply need to be enforced – fairly and uniformly. A breed ban does nothing to address the behavior or expectations of owners.
"Breed bans present a myriad of issues for communities that try to apply them. They are attempting to address a hypothetical future incident as opposed to anything that has actually happened. Most people would prefer the law enforcement in their community to respond to more pressing items than what a dog looks like – something they are not trained to do. There is the issue of what defines a pit bull and identifying them – "pit bull" is a term for a collective of breeds pulled together in a catch-all name. Breed-specific bans do not address the right issues.
"Waterford Township enacted a pit bull ban in 1990. In 2016, the Waterford Township Police Department responded after complaints were made after a resident posted a picture of himself and his dog, Diggy, smiling. Police identified the dog as a "pit bull." They took the dog and a drawn-out, and public, court case took place. In the end, two veterinarians affirmed the dog was an American bulldog. The case was thrown out. The costs associated with the case and public backlash fell squarely on the township of Waterford.
"When we talk about enforceability, we are primarily talking about whether one can, at any level, identify a dog as a pit bull confidently. In 2012, Maddie’s Fund (a significant funder in animal welfare) and multiple Florida shelters performed a research study where trained professionals were asked to identify "pit bulls" out of a lineup. They were right 8% of the time. These are trained professionals.
"In Prince George’s County, Md., a pit bull ban was enacted and over the course of one year cost the city more than $500,000 to enforce, including up to $68,000 in one instance to impound and euthanize a "pit bull," and they found no measurable increase in public safety.
The right issue is that people should expect to be safe in their neighborhood from loose dogs. Owners have a responsibility to appropriately restrain their dogs while in public pursuant to existing leash laws. Dangerous dog laws are in place to address dangerous dogs and hold accountable the owners who allow the behaviors.
"Michigan Humane has held its annual Mutt March, one of our largest events, at the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House since 1989. Next year would have been our 35th year bringing thousands of visitors, vendors, and commerce to Grosse Pointe Shores in a celebration of the human-animal bond. The immediate impact of the decision to ban pit bulls is that this celebration in Grosse Pointe Shores is no longer on the table. We will be immediately forced to identify a more inclusive community to host our event.
"Make no mistake, people now make life decisions based on the needs of their pets. The decision to ban pit bulls, which reflects on both the city of Grosse Pointe Shores and those who live there, will have a significant impact on the perception that those locally and nationally have of the city. People choose where to live and where to work based on what they perceive as the best environment for their pet. Close to 70% of Americans own a pet, and an overwhelming majority of those consider their pets part of their family, if not equal to any other member of their family. In fact, a 2021 National Association of Realtors study found that 43% of homeowners would be willing to move to better accommodate their pets.
"There are behavioral differences in breeds. It is not all "the owners." However, inherent aggression is not one of those behavioral tendencies. Dogs should be judged on the behavior they display and their attributes that are often based on socialization and health. These are, often, in the hands of the owners.
"People, pets, and communities are healthier and safer when pets are celebrated. Banning a breed is the wrong message and the wrong issue. It is not creating a safer community. We should expect that our existing laws be enforced regarding pets and pet ownership while simultaneously not alienating those who choose to share their life with one breed over another. Every pet is unique and every situation involving them should be considered on an individual and unique basis."