Grosse Pointe Shores City Council to vote on pit bull ban in September

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published September 6, 2023

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GROSSE POINTE SHORES — After hearing from impassioned residents on both sides of the debate, the Grosse Pointe Shores City Council is expected to vote on a proposal that would ban residents from owning pit bulls during its next regular meeting at 7 p.m. Sept. 19 at City Hall.

The vote comes in the wake of a violent and unprovoked attack on Maddie, a senior cockapoo, in June by a pit bull that cost the cockapoo one of her legs and left her human companions, Mark and Dana Owen, injured.

At a crowded Aug. 15 Shores City Council meeting, a number of residents and dog lovers spoke for and against a breed-specific ban.

“My heart goes out to Dana and Mark and Maddie,” Shores resident Fran Bachmann said. “It was a terrible situation. It should have never happened.”

But Bachmann, who has been a professional dog trainer for the last 16 years and has worked with hundreds of dogs, said a breed ban isn’t the answer, and it will punish responsible dog owners. It also won’t take into account that people and pets in the Shores have been bitten or attacked by other types of dogs, including German shepherds and Great Danes.

“Breed bans lull people into a false sense of security. … I urge the council to reject breed-specific language … and enhance the current (vicious dog) ordinance,” Bachmann said.

Corinne Martin, the executive director of the nonprofit Grosse Pointe Animal Adoption Society, said she’s worked in animal welfare for more than 30 years and has been on many dog injury cases. While she acknowledged bites by pit bulls “can be very serious,” so can bites from other breeds. She said her organization has adopted out many loving pit bulls over the years.

“These are dogs with good temperaments,” Martin said. “We are very careful about what we do. … If you institute a breed ban, it will handicap us from being able to place a dog that may have some pit bull in them.”

Maggie Henry, a GPAAS volunteer and Grosse Pointe Woods resident, said she’s been around pit bulls her whole life.

“It’s not the dog,” Henry said. “We can’t be blaming the dogs. Would you ban certain types of people that you considered too aggressive?”

Although Henry’s question was meant to be rhetorical, several people in the audience piped up, “Yes!”

Henry said the key is not buying or adopting a dog you can’t control, learning about different training techniques, not leaving your dog unattended and otherwise being a responsible dog owner.

Others wanted to see pit bulls prohibited.

“In my opinion, they are most often used as protection or a weapon in inner cities,” said Daniel Cyr, who said he’s been a Shores resident for 28 years. “Pit bulls do not belong here.”

Shores resident Dr. Robert E. Lee, a vascular surgeon who said he’s treated countless injuries over his four-decade career, recalled the story of an 11-year-old girl whose trachea was lacerated by a neighbor’s pit bull. It was only her proximity to a hospital, and the work of the medical professionals who attended to her, that saved her life.

“Young children are often the victims of vicious dog attacks,” Lee said.

Lee said in trauma surgery literature, “it’s well-established … that the root cause of the majority of injuries” by dogs is from pit bulls.

“Public safety needs to trump the misguided desire of some people to own dogs that threaten (their) neighbors,” Lee said.

Some residents said they’re now afraid to walk their own dogs or walk, jog or bike in the city.

“I want to feel free to play with my grandkids in my front yard,” resident Joanne Raffoul said. “I’ve lived here 30 years and I’ve never been afraid before.”

While people differed as to what should be done, most agreed the council needed to take some sort of action to prevent a future attack.

“Public safety does an amazing job protecting our two-legged residents,” said resident Tina Ellis, a former council member. “It’s time (to do the same) for our four-legged (residents). … We need to strengthen our current pet ordinance.”

If the council doesn’t approve a breed ban, Ellis suggested higher fines for dogs that are roaming the streets or that get out of yards. In a case like the one experienced by the Owens family, she said a fine of $5,000 to $10,000 would be warranted in a more affluent community like the Shores, where smaller fines might seem nominal.

“How are we supposed to make people responsible if we don’t hit them where it hurts?” Ellis asked.

The council debated three proposals prepared by City Attorney Anne Seurynck — who was filling in for regular City Attorney Brian Renaud — but because of the amendments proposed by council members, Seurynck asked to be able to put those changes into a final draft ordinance before a vote, instead of the council making these changes and approving them on the fly.

City Councilman Donn Schroder was opposed to waiting.

“Our first job as a city council is public safety,” Schroder said. “A tragedy occurred here in June. … I think we’d all have blood on our hands if we didn’t proceed with a vote (tonight).”

But, with several other council members — some of whom are attorneys — saying it would be better to approve a finalized version after the city attorney has been able to assemble it with the suggested changes, Shores officials decided to wait for a vote until September.

The council was split on what version of the ordinance it would be voting on. Schroder and City Councilmen Robert Barrette, John Dakmak and John Seago voted in favor of a version with a pit bull ban, while Mayor Ted Kedzierski and City Councilwomen Sandra Cavataio and Danielle Gehlert voted against it. That means the council will be making a final decision this month on an ordinance that would impose a pit bull ban — expected to include a grandfather clause for current Shores residents who have pit bulls that are registered with the city.

“Doing nothing is not an option,” Kedzierski said.

For an agenda or more information about the meeting, visit