Grosse Pointe Shores considering breed ban after violent dog attack

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published July 11, 2023

 Grosse Pointe Shores resident Dana Owen holds Maddie, her cockapoo. Owen and her husband were injured in a recent attack by a dog on Maddie that cost Maddie one of her front legs.

Grosse Pointe Shores resident Dana Owen holds Maddie, her cockapoo. Owen and her husband were injured in a recent attack by a dog on Maddie that cost Maddie one of her front legs.

Photo by K. Michelle Moran


GROSSE POINTE SHORES — An attack on a small senior dog and her owners has left a number of Grosse Pointe Shores residents afraid of walking their dogs or strolling by themselves in one Shores neighborhood.

Mark Owen, his wife, Dana Owen, and their 14-year-old cockapoo, Maddie, were walking in the first block of Lochmoor Boulevard in the Shores June 4 when a dog that appeared to be a pit bull that was between two nearby houses suddenly charged at them, making a beeline for Maddie, a small dog that Dana Owen said is deaf and partially blind. Mark Owen said he saw the unsecured dog out of the corner of his eye and instinctively reached down to pick up Maddie but not before the attacking dog latched its teeth onto her leg.

“This dog wasn’t letting go,” said Dana Owen, recalling how she and a passerby tried to fight the dog off to get him to release Maddie — to no avail.

“He pulled all three of us to the ground,” Mark Owen told the Grosse Pointe Shores City Council during a meeting June 20. “It was absolutely the most horrific event of our lives.”

Maddie lost a front leg — and nearly her life — during the incident.

“Her tendons and ligaments were completely severed,” Mark Owen said.

He was left with nerve damage that eliminated all feeling from the left side of one hand — surgery has thus far been unable to reverse the damage — and his wife has a lengthy scar on her arm from Maddie’s leash digging into her skin.

“If I had not been able to get Maddie off the ground, she would have been mauled to death for sure,” Mark Owen said.

He said they feel the Shores Public Safety Department should have immediately removed the dog that attacked them from its home, pending the outcome of a court case.

“We are begging for change,” Mark Owen said.

They aren’t the only ones. Residents packed the meeting to show support for the Owens family and ask city leaders to take action.

Shores resident Bill Raffoul lives around the corner from the house with the dog that attacked Maddie. He spoke in favor of a pit bull ban.

“We have to change the laws,” Raffoul said.

He said his wife had a brain aneurysm last year, and an attack like this one could jar the aneurysm and kill his wife.

“She walks every day,” Raffoul said. “She lives for her walks, to get her strength back.”

Former City Councilwoman Tina Ellis, a Regal Place resident, said her dog and Maddie have been friends for the last 14 years. She said the pain and suffering the Owens family has experienced “is making us all sick.”

“There’s no excuse for this,” Ellis said. “We need to protect our residents here — dogs included.”

Tish Hastings lives on Colonial Road, behind the home where the attack occurred. She’s concerned not only for her safety, but that of her two dogs and her child.

“Everybody is changing their walking route,” Hastings told the council. “It’s scary.”

City Councilman John Seago, who lives on Lochmoor, a few houses away from the house where the attacking dog lived, asked how quickly the city could institute a breed-specific ban.

“I haven’t set foot on my street” since the attack, said Seago, noting that he’s usually an avid runner and walker.

City Councilman Donn Schroder admitted that this matter “is complex” because many people say they have pit bulls and pit bull mixes that are well trained and socialized, but he said it’s the jaw strength of these dogs that make them such a threat. He agreed with Seago that they should fast-track a breed ban.

Mayor Ted Kedzierski concurred.

“We’re going to move on this very quickly,” Kedzierski told residents. “You shouldn’t have to live in fear.”

Dana Owen said that besides the fact that the dog that attacked Maddie wasn’t leashed, the homeowner also didn’t have a fenced-in yard. 

Neighbors are also concerned about what they say is another pit bull in that home. They don’t know if that dog is similarly aggressive.

With regard to the dog that attacked Maddie, Public Safety Director Kenneth Werenski said that a dog that bites someone is usually removed from the home immediately, but the person who recently purchased the Lochmoor home was able to show that the dog had all its vaccinations and they would quarantine and supervise the dog. The homeowner told police he would be taking the dog to Chicago, where he formerly lived, and that he would be putting the dog down there. Werenski said officers determined the dog’s owner “would do the right thing.”

“We made the conscious decision to leave the dog in the house with the owner,” Werenski said.

Kedzierski said one of the issues they need to address is whether someone who already has a pit bull or pit bull mix is grandfathered in or whether that person would need to find a new home for the dog.

“We want to make sure we do everything right,” Kedzierski said.

Because of a medical emergency, City Attorney Brian Renaud wasn’t at the meeting. City Manager Stephen Poloni said Renaud is aware of the attack and is exploring the issue.

“He’s looking at things to enhance our current ordinance,” Poloni said of Renaud. He said Renaud is also looking at a possible breed ban.

“There’s not a breed-specific ordinance (in the Shores) like Grosse Pointe Woods has and Harper Woods has,” Schroder said of two nearby cities that have pit bull bans on their books.

City Councilman John Dakmak, an attorney, agreed with his colleagues about implementing a ban on certain breeds of dogs, noting that such ordinances have “been in place for decades” in cities around the country.

“To be a dog owner is a massive responsibility,” Dakmak said. “I would like to see a comprehensive breed ban in place in Grosse Pointe Shores.”

Breeds bans are often referred to as breed-specific legislation, or BSL.

But, is a specific breed ban the answer to dog attacks? Many dog experts say it isn’t.

The American Veterinary Medical Association is opposed to breed-specific bans.

As noted on the AVMA website, “Any dog can bite, regardless of its breed. It is the dog’s individual history, behavior, general size, number of dogs involved, and the vulnerability of the person bitten that determines the likelihood of biting and whether a dog will cause a serious bite injury. Breed-specific bans are a simplistic answer to a far more complex social problem, and they have the potential to divert attention and resources from more effective approaches.”

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has also come out against such bans, stating on its website that there’s “no convincing data to indicate that breed-specific legislation has succeeded anywhere to date. “

“Breed-specific laws have a tendency to compromise rather than enhance public safety,” the ASPCA states on its website. “When animal control resources are used to regulate or ban a certain breed, the focus is shifted away from effective enforcement of laws that have the best chances of making communities safer: dog license laws, leash laws, anti-animal fighting laws, anti-tethering laws, laws facilitating spaying and neutering and laws that require all owners to control their dogs, regardless of breed.”

Likewise, the American Kennel Club and the Humane Society of the United States have come out strongly against breed bans.

The Humane Society of the United States writes on its website, “Experts have found that no breed is more likely to bite than another.” It’s also difficult for even canine experts to tell by sight whether a dog belongs to a particular breed line or not, one of the many factors that complicates enforcement of such bans.

A 2022 report from the National Institutes of Health’s National Library of Medicine came to a similar conclusion, stating, “There is growing evidence to suggest that such laws are ineffective, negatively impact animal welfare, and, in fact, do little to make communities safer.”

In 2012, the American Bar Association approved a resolution that called for governmental units to repeal dog breed bans.

More than a dozen states block breed-specific legislation from being implemented in municipalities, including California, Texas, Florida, Pennsylvania and Illinois.

The Shores already has a vicious dog ordinance. The question is whether or not city officials will now add a breed ban. Officials said they could be considering a breed ban or other regulation as soon as their next regular City Council meeting, which was slated to take place at 7 p.m. July 18 at Shores City Hall. An agenda for the meeting wasn’t available before press time. For an agenda or more information, visit