Dan Tillery always wanted a dog, and when he finally got one, he never expected the onslaught of negative comments he would receive on social media. In fact, it seems quite surprising that one simple picture led to the series of events that followed. In this tell-all article, you’ll read all about the events that changed Dan’s (and his dog’s) life forever.
Always Wanted A Dog
The adoring couple, Dan and his girlfriend, had always wanted a dog and were beyond excited when they finally had a chance to adopt a dog. When he interviewed with the Oakland Press, Dan said, “[My girlfriend and I] have been wanting a dog forever, but the place we were renting would not allow dogs. We just recently purchased our first home. All ours. And dogs are allowed.”
It did not take long for Dan and his girlfriend to begin considering a furry friend that they wanted to add to their growing family. When they bought their own home, it seemed as if it was the perfect time for Dan and his girlfriend to adopt a pet. When they visited the shelter, they fell in love with a lovely dog perfectly named Sir Wiggleton.
The 2-year-old bulldog was rescued after wandering the streets of Detroit. Dan and his girlfriend also lived in Detroit, not far off from where Sir Wiggleton was found. An unnamed individual found the American bulldog and took him to the shelter. He stayed there for several months before he was adopted by Dan and his girlfriend.
Kristina Rinaldi, the head of the no-kill shelter that housed Sir Wiggleton for all those months, went into his background in more detail. She explained that rescue workers work to collect dogs from Detroit Animal Control, and in one particular visit, they loaded 12 dogs into the van, and at full capacity, there was no more room for other dogs. A dog caught Kristina’s eye, and so she brought him into her own car and named him “Sir Wiggleton.”
Why was he named ‘Sir Wiggleton’? Kristina said it was because of his “funky butt wiggle” he would show off when he was excited. After he received the necessary shots and medical treatments, he was more than happy to socialize with the other dogs in the no-kill shelter. Kristina said they often posted pictures of Sir Wiggleton on the shelter’s Facebook page, in hopes that somebody would adopt him.
Dan seemed to love Sir Wiggleton from the moment he saw him. Dan had an opportunity to see a goofy picture of Sir Wiggleton and expressed that he wanted to meet this dog in person. When he arrived at the shelter, it seemed as if it was an instant connection. Dan picked out Sir Wiggleton, renamed him Diggy, and took him to his new forever home. Everything seemed to be going well for the happy pup and owner, but things would quickly change.
Dan already had a large social media presence due to his career as a musician. Similar to many new “dog-dads” and “dog-moms,” Dan and his girlfriend posted numerous pictures of their new pup all over the internet. There was nothing unusual about this practice, but what happened next was a massive shock to Dan and Diggy.
Something unusually strange happened after Dan posted those first few pictures of his dog. A stranger following his accounts sent the photos to the police, unbeknownst to Dan. Needless to say, Dan was absolutely stunned that a stranger would call the police about his happy, loving dog – behind his back, no less!
This one selfie was the face that launched a thousand ships. Or, more specifically, the dog’s face that led to a police investigation! While the photo seems to be the epitome of innocence, it ended up being the photo that the police used to investigate Dan and his poor dog Diggy.
Dan shared that adorable dog/dog-dad selfie on the page for “Detroit Dog Rescue” because he wanted to show his gratitude to the organization for taking care of Diggy while he was patiently waiting to be adopted. He felt that the happiness expressed in the photo showed the positive of the organization’s hard work towards finding forever homes for the families. This seemed to be a serious mistake for Dan.
Moments after Dan posted the now infamous selfie, it garnered wild attention from fans and dog-owners alike. Dan posted the selfie on Detroit Rescue’s social media account, and within just one day, the picture got 24,000 likes. In fact, the post got so popular that Dan started getting unsolicited calls from media conglomerates and dog lovers alike. It did not take long for some critics to come in about the picture of Dan and Diggy – and their comments were far from respectful!
Shortly after the dual-selfie picture, Dan uploaded another picture to Facebook with the following caption, “We know this photo is going to break the internet and we apologize, but we had to share. After almost 100 days in the shelter, Sir Wiggleton just got adopted. Sir Wiggleton and his new Dad are celebrating adoption day with huge smiles all around!” The picture seemed too perfect to not share, and many of Dan’s friends and followers seemed to agree!
Knock On The Door
Dan seemed over the moon that so many people loved his American bulldog just as much as he did, and he was posting pictures galore about his loving experience with his dog. It seemed as if there were no downsides to joy so many people were expressing online. Everything seemed to change a few days later when the police came knocking on Dan’s door. Why were they there? He definitely had not done anything wrong, right?
The high number of news reports about dogs attacking adults and even children is startling to many people, so much so that certain breeds have been banned from some municipalities. Pit bulls are unfortunately singled out as a breed of dog that is naturally vicious and prone to fits of anger and attacks. Some attacks have been fatal. In 2016, 41 individuals were killed due to a dog attack, and over half of those attacks were from pit bulls. The other dogs involved were German Shepherds, Rottweilers, Labradors, and a mix of other dogs.
Animal specialists and breeding information that we have today suggests that the reason owners are getting rid of their pet pit bulls is because the owner feels their hand is forced. Many owners and animal specialists agree that pit bulls are more dangerous than other dogs because the history of pit bulls being used as baiting dogs is the reason they are aggressive and more inclined towards violence than other dogs.
We already know that Dan’s photos of him, his girlfriend, and Diggy got so much attention that someone tipped off the picture to the police. Officers arrived at Dan’s house that tense day to explain that Waterford Township, where Dan, his girlfriend, and Diggy lived, bans pit bulls. The police arrived to let Dan know that he would be receiving a fine if he did not return the dog to any area outside of Waterford Township. Dan and his girlfriend were confused and admittedly devastated at this confusing news!
A Good Boy
Dan knew for a fact that the accusations that his dog was part pit bull were bogus, and he honestly believed that the officers would discontinue the investigation given Dan’s concrete evidence that Diggy was not a pit bull, but in fact, an American Bulldog. When the police arrived at the gate, it seemed that Diggy was the perfect dog he was portrayed in social media. Dan said, “When they went to the gate [to] actually see him, he licked their face, was very kind,” he explained to the radio station WWJ. “They said, we’re dog lovers, that’s cool, he seems like a good boy. Took some pictures of him.”
Dan and his girlfriend received some important paperwork when they adopted Diggy. The adoption papers stated that Diggy was an American bulldog. Dan and his girlfriend made sure that those adoption papers would be shown to the proper authorities that were trying to take Diggy away. Despite showing the evidence to the police department, they were shocked to hear what the officers were saying about Diggy!
Tillery said, “We have the paperwork that says it’s an American Bulldog.” Dan was right – the adoption papers stated with utmost clarity that their dog is a bulldog. Despite showing these papers to the officers, the officers refused to change their minds.
“I told (one of the officers) that I was going to keep my dog and he gave me a citation,” Dan said. The officers strongly felt that Diggy’s appearance mimicked that of a bulldog no matter what the papers said.
What It Means
That citation is considered a civil infraction which can cost up to $500 in some instances. Dan was annoyed, as well as heartbroken. He was intent upon not losing Diggy under any circumstances.
The civil infraction never stopped some neighbors from playing with Diggy, giving the loving dog treats and kisses. “He wakes me up every morning licking my face,” Dan said. “Every neighbor that I’ve talked to about it has wanted to come over and play with and pet Diggy.” Dan had no clue how the police could consider his happy dog could be considered violent.
Even the director of the no-kill shelter, Ms. Rinaldi, spent ample time with Diggy. She said that the pleasant-mannered dog was no threat to anyone, anywhere! She described him as “the biggest goofball,” who “loves everybody” and has “big slappy cheeks.” That sounds like quite the lovable dog!
Despite the friendliness of Diggy to anyone he encountered, Lt. Todd Hasselbach of the Waterford Township police department continued to argue that “it looks like a pit to me.” Further, he said, “I’d write a ticket” to Dan, the owner of Diggy.
Things were escalating quickly for Dan and the Police Department. After hearing what the officer said about writing the ticket, Dan confessed to the New York Post that “[The cop] said, ‘You know, we don’t really need much more than I think he’s a pit, and that’s enough . . . You have three days to have him out of your home’.” He was given only three days left with Diggy, and then had to give him up forever!
The head of the Waterford Police, Chief Scott Underwood, said in a statement that the only reason that they were acting on Diggy’s presence in the neighborhood was because of the multiple anonymous complaints. This is why officers were sent to Dan’s home to inspect the animal. “The dog was presented to officers and based on their observations, it was determined the dog was part pit bull/pit bull terrier,” Underwood said.
Dan had nothing negative to say about the officers that entered his house. He said that they were kind and he did not take the citation too personally. “I don’t think they have a vindictive edge against me; I think they have an ordinance and they have to enforce it,” Dan said.
Follow The Law
There was some major backlash that followed. Support came from both individuals who liked the pictures Dan was posting and animal rights activists. While there may have been a lot of support for Dan & Diggy, the police reminded the public that they were only trying to upload the laws of the Township. Underwood said in a statement, “From our standpoint, it’s a pretty clear case of an ordinance that makes it clear what’s permissible and what’s not. Our job is to enforce the ordinance.”
By this time, it was clear that time was running out, and Dan did not see his own personal time in jail as a viable option. His options were to give up Diggy or face a $500 fine, plus possible jail time for noncompliance. Thousands were stunned that the Waterford Township Police Department had the ability to take away someone’s dog based on the breed, rather than the behavior of the dog. Dan felt he was in a conundrum, so he thought hard about his options and realized that he had a way out after all. He thought back to that initial selfie with his dog, and a light bulb went off.
Dan & Diggy had the support of thousands standing behind them in a massive social media campaign that had the potential to help him bring back his dog. Supporters organized a petition online to help Dan access the resources necessary to keep his beloved doggo. Additionally, some supporters took to the streets protesting the unfair removal of a perfectly harmless dog from his loving home. Dan, too, made moves to secure the safe retrieval of his pup. He took the matter to court.
While the petition was a good start, supporters of team Dan & Diggy had some other plans up their sleeves. They surmised to go away with the laws that forbid dog owners from having pit bulls as pets. This would not only ensure that Diggy would stay with Dan, but allow for many more adoptions of other loving dogs, regardless of breed. By this time, it was clear that the law was unfair and it was time to change it for the better.
While Dan was busy fighting for ownership of his dog in the courts, 54,000 people signed an online petition that urged Waterford Township to change its ban on pit bulls. “Please make our community safer by creating a dog ordinance that does not single out specific breeds,” the petition read. “We can make the community safer through dog ordinances that all dog owners have to follow, no matter what their dog looks like. Dangerous dogs are a problem. Irresponsible dog owners are causing the problem, and our laws should target the people.”
The petition garnered so much support that the Humane Society stepped into the throes of the battle. “We’re against breed-specific legislation, and we’re hoping that places like Waterford Township will take a good hard look at it and repeal it,” said Michigan Humane Society spokesperson. “A lot of places around the country have been repealing them because they’ve found them to be ineffective.”
It seemed that everyone was putting in the extra effort to ensure that Diggy would get to stay with his forever home. The executive director of Detroit Dog Rescue Kristina Rinaldi paired up with Dan and said, “I have Diggy’s paperwork from another municipality and a veterinarian.” The paperwork was the evidence that Dan needed to prove that Diggy is an American Bulldog, not one of the dogs on the breed-ban list for Waterford Township.
It seemed that Kristina took more safeguards before the adoption than the police had originally thought! She said that the dog rescue called Waterford Township before the adoption to ensure that American Bulldogs were allowed. Dan added that he licensed Diggy as an American bulldog before he brought him home. With this mounting evidence, did the courts sill have a case against Diggy?
A Total Sweetie
“Because Diggy has a blocky head and a big smile, he was automatically judged like he was dangerous and this is probably the sweetest dog you’ll ever know,” Rinaldi said. Dan hoped that the courts would side with him and the large group of petition followers on his side.
Kristina Rinaldi was hoping that if the courts did not agree with Dan, that at least they could reach a compromise. Rinaldi said, “Diggy is living a great life with Dan. As the nation has seen, he has the best dog smile and is just a loving dog.” Dan knew that stormy seas were ahead, but he had his hope to guide the way.
Dan was certain that he could win the case because Diggy’s breed, American bulldog, is not what it appears to be (pit bull), despite what the officers may have said upon surveying the dog. On Dan’s social media page, he said, “My lawyer and I are going to do everything possible to make sure Diggy stays in his home with us, his family.” He added, “Thanks for all of your support, guys. I’m not a quitter.”
By The Thousands
The amount of support that Dan & Diggy got was astounding! Their story garnered statewide and national support, and that petition that started at 40,000 rose to over 100,000 signatures supporting Diggy’s case! As if that wasn’t enough support, supporters came to Waterford Township to show support for Diggy and Dan! With supporters numbering in the hundreds of thousands – would that be enough for Dan to see his beloved dog again?
Kristina Rinaldi was so moved by the support that she said, “People had really invested their emotions into this story, and it’s beautiful to see so many people care about rescue dogs.” There were hundreds of thousands of people united for Diggy and Dan, but there was one major thing standing between him and his adorable pooch: the law.
After those three days that seemed like an eternity, Dan posted to his Facebook, “Because Diggy still remains at his home with us, I was issued a citation today. Diggy is safe and happy. We are cooperating with the Waterford Police. All we can do now is remain hopeful that this can be resolved soon. Diggy Thanks you all for your support.”
The Best News
The debate seemed endless, and things were looking increasingly gloomy for Dan’s case. He was growing more and more saddened over the prospect of leaving his best friend over a miscommunication. He pursued his court case nonetheless, and after what seemed like hours of debate, the case was dismissed! Diggy could return to Dan!
Spread The Word
Dan was so overjoyed at the news that he immediately posted to Facebook the following message: “We get to keep our boy, He’s a good boy.” Dan and his girlfriend not only got to keep their pup, who was incorrectly identified as a pit bull, but also changed Waterford Township’s laws on keeping pet pit bulls in the city.
This is one of those stories that has one of those heartwarming endings. All of the charges against Dan and Diggy were dismissed in the 51st District Court. What does this all mean? That Dan and Diggy could never be separated again! That did not stop Dan and Megan’s work. They enlisted the help of veterinarians to help analyze dog breeds.
Remember the community of support that came out in favor of Dan & Diggy? Kristina Rinaldi was a major part of that group, and she said, “I think the whole world loves Diggy! We, at DDR, are thrilled that we were able to help him find his way to a happy forever. Diggy’s road to forever was a combination of so many great people working together and that’s what rescuing dogs is all about.”
Due to his high social media following, Dan led a campaign to garner support for the return of his adorable dog Diggy. Some critics commented that if he was not as popular or famous as he was, would he have been able to raise the support? To illustrate, his Facebook and Instagram pages have over 10,000 likes, and he has nearly 1,000 followers on Twitter. He was able to shed light on an issue that many others may not have the resources to have done.
Kristina Rinaldi, director of the no-kill shelter called Detroit Dog Rescue said, “People had really invested their emotions into this story, and it’s beautiful to see so many people care about rescue dogs.”
You might be surprised to know that Dan Tillery is a burgeoning artist in Michigan and across the country. He has no trouble spinning tracks for clubs as well as chiller music venues. The rapid increase in followers he has received from his experience with Diggy has given him the opportunity to show the other side of his talents: his music abilities. In 2006, he recorded his first ever EP, but more recently, he has used his social media pages to post pictures of Diggy and promote his music.
As Dan and Diggy’s stories spread through social media and news outlets alike, people from not only America but all over the world celebrated Dan and Diggy’s victory over the spurious laws in Waterford Township. Dan now uses his social media accounts as a way to keep fans and dog-friends alike updated on how Diggy is enjoying his new life in their new home. In early October 2017, Dan posted a picture of he and Diggy pumping iron at the gym! That is quite the incredible duo!
Not The Only One
Adopting the perfect dog can seem easy to some, especially when it comes to adopting pit bulls. In some countries, though, owning a pit bull can be illegal! Well-known and knighted British actor Sir Patrick Stewart experienced this first-hand when he wanted to move back to the United Kingdom.
Adopting His Pup
It seems that Patrick Steward loves his dog like he loves his own children! Despite his great care for his dog, it is not enough to overcome the BSL ban in the United Kingdom.
The BSL Ban
The BSL Ban (Breed Specific Legislation) is a law that prohibits the ownership of particular types of dog breeds because of their dangerous mannerisms and nature. When it comes to the BSL ban, whether or not your dog is tame has no input into whether or not authorities have any jurisdiction on letting you keep your dog. As you can imagine, pit bulls are on that list, and if you have one, the police will take it away.
Moving To The U.K.
It did not take long for Patrick Steward to run into problems when he started his move back to the U.K. with his adoring dog. He worked hard to look for a loophole around the law, and after much effort, found that there was not. Steward realized that he was in a terrible situation. He would be forced, once again, to give up his pupper.
There are a plethora of celebrities who have shown particular favoritism towards pit bulls. While some may think that pits are “dangerous” or “vicious,” a lot of celebrities you would not expect, have shown outstanding support and advocacy for this breed of dog!
Kaley Cuoco of The Big Bang Theory has many talents and among the most rewarding of them is her advocacy for pit bull awareness. She has gone so far as to say they they are “the greatest dogs in the world.” It is clear that she practices what she preaches as she has three adopted pit bulls of her own.
Jessica Alba named her adoring puppy “Bowie” after singer/songwriter David Bowie. Even with her youngest child in the house, Jessica said that she felt safe having “Bowie” and another dog, “Sid” in the house with her young one. “Sid” was a cute little pug, too! All good things must come to an end, it seems, as Jessica lost both of her beloved dogs in 2017.
Jennifer Aniston, one of the lead actresses on the hit TV sitcom, Friends, adopted her own mixed pit bull puppy in 2012. She adopted the dog with Jason Theroux, her boyfriend at the time. Jason and Jennifer named their new puppy “Sophie,” after the extraordinary novel, Sophie’s Choice.
Jessica Biel’s name speaks for itself: this celebrity powerhouse fell in love with her pit bull named “Tina” so deeply that she created a special hashtag for her. #TuestdaysWithTina was Biel’s new hashtag that she used on her Twitter and Instagram accounts.
Is there any better gift than a cute little doggo? When Rachel Bilson’s former fiance, Adam Brody, gave her a pit bull for her birthday, they named the dog “Penny Lane,” and continued taking care of the dog together after they broke up. They shared custody of the cute dog and are on amicable terms when it comes to the dog.
Which Grey’s Anatomy superstar is also a huge animal rights advocate? No one other than Izzy, or Katherine Heigl! She founded the Jason Debus Heigl Foundation which is dedicated to providing the best animal welfare support possible. Katherine adopted her first pit puppy from a shelter in California, and she has stated it was the best decision she has ever made!
Among the top celebrities known to prioritize animal rights and rescuing cute little doggies is Alicia Silverstone. She has rescued three dogs, and one of them is a pit bull. She also created a personal website called The Kind Life. One this site you will see that Silverstone believes pit bulls are merely a misunderstood breed.
Designer Marc Jacobs is known for his keen sense of fashion, but did you know that he is also a proud dog-dad of a gorgeous bull terrier! While bull terriers are a breed listed on the BSL Ban list, it is clear that Marc has no regard for that list when it comes to his adorable doggo. Just one look at his Instagram account and you will absolutely know what we are talking about!
Jon Stewart is known for being a hilarious comedian and television show host. What you may not know about him is that has rescued three pit bulls. Their names are as unique as Jon’s jokes: Shamsky, Champ, and Monkey. Thinking about the dogs and Jon together, we aren’t sure who loves whom more! One fun fact you may not know: Champ is a three-legged dog that Jon adopted from Animal Haven, a non-profit shelter.
Sophie Bush, the lead actress from the hit television drama, One Tree Hill, connected with the organization Wags and Walks, to save an adorable puppy named “Griffin.” Griffin was one of eight puppies set to be euthanized. Griffin was lucky to be saved by Sophie, added Griffin to her growing family of pit bulls.
Gisele Bundchen and her husband, pro-American football player Tom Brady, adopted a mixed pit bull they named “Lua.” We can think of a million reasons to love Gisele, and now we have another one!
Kevin Bacon and his wife Kyra Sedgwick seem to be the absolute ambassadors of pit bull love! The happy family adopted their loving Pitt Lilly, and showed some celebrity support for the #KissedByAPitt campaign. This hashtag campaign raised awareness about pit bulls and the destructive stereotypes that their owners are fighting against.
Josh Hutcherson, super celebrity from the Hunger Games series, adopted the absolute cutest three-month-old pit bull all the way back in 2012 He named this cute little puppy “Driver” after adopting the cute little girl from a shelter in Los Angeles. When he adopted Driver, she had been trying to heal from a broken leg for eleven days!
What could possibly pair better with celebrity chef Rachel Ray than a cute little doggo? Her adored puppy, Isaboo, is one of the luckiest doggy that we know. Since Rachael is a top chef, we wonder: what does she feed her dog? It seems that she only provides the best: the Nutrish brand.