Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Debacle at Hazel Park

Revised: May 12, 2015; 20:17 GMT
Revised: May 15, 2015; 14:51 GMT

On March 6, 2015 Fox News Detroit reported on a domestic dispute in the town of Hazel Park, Michigan. Jamie Kraczkowski claimed that her boyfriend, Jamie Dopke, became abusive. That's when her pit bull Ice1 came to the rescue. According to Ms Kraczkowski, Ice
. . . just grabbed his pant leg, . . . . 
and then, . . .  Mr Dopke left. The "pant leg" meme was repeated in later news accounts, despite the publication of photographs showing Mr Dopke's obvious leg wounds.2

Ms Kraczkowski's stellar performance as an aggrieved woman convinced some viewers, including those at the local press.3 On the following day (March 7) the Oakland Press ran a 3 sentence story cribbed from Fox with the sensational headline Hero pit bull saves owner during domestic violence, faces removal from home due to city ordinance.  Fox continued to milk the incident with additional stories. Arin Greenwood of the Huffington Post chirped in. The story continued to build; it went national with dozens of Hero dog stories about Jamie and Ice.

Courtney Protz-Sanders 4
What happened next requires explication, and a short history of one of Michigan's most eccentric animal extremists, Ms Protz-Sanders.

On October 25, 2009, police in Royal Oak responded to a 911 call regarding a vicious dog attack involving a pit bull named Rocky and a Boston Terrier named Max. According to a press release,
 . . . as Rocky, who weighed some 80-90 pounds, and his owner jogged on Rochester Road, Rocky pulled away and ran across the street. He attacked Max, who weighs about 29 pounds, as he played in the dog run area, a designated leash-free zone, with his owner and a friend.
Max suffered gaping wounds to his neck and chest. Max's owner suffered minor wounds and the owner's friend required surgery on his middle finger.

Rocky had been adopted several months earlier from Paws-for-Life Rescue, and the new owner surrendered Rocky to Animal Control for humane euthanization. Ms Protz-Sanders, the director of Paws-for-Life, claimed ownership. She launched a website, JusticeforRocky.com, and demanded an investigation in Rocky's euthanization. This set the stage for the memorable image of a woeful Protz-Sanders, bearing Rocky's ashes solemnly into commission chambers in an elegant cedar casket.

The minutes of the November 9, 2009 commission meeting include the following public comment:
Ms. Courtney Protz-Sanders, spokesperson for Paws for Life Rescue, recounted the story of Rocky, one of the group’s animals in foster care, who was destroyed after being involved in an altercation with another dog on October 25th. She demanded justice for Rocky.
Ms Protz-Sanders serves in various capacities with the following organizations:
  • MI-PACA (Michigan PAC for Animals; Nov 23, 2013)
  • MMN (Make Michigan Next; spun off from Mi-PACA Sept 2014)
  • Hazel Park Animal Advocates (March 16, 2015)
  • Paws for Life Rescue (Executive Director)
  • Animal Rescues of Michigan
  • Oakland Pet Advocates (Spokeswoman)
Hazel Park
The March 6th incident at Mr Dopke's home came at a crucial moment in statewide pit bull politics. In September of 2014 Ms Protz-Sanders' ad hoc group Make Michigan Next launched a campaign to pass legislation which would preempt BSL throughout the state.5

Advocates held several rallies, then the movement went quiet over the winter. After the events of March 6 Mi-PACA urged advocates to attend the March 10 city commission meeting.  On March 12 the Oakland Tribune published a sympathetic story about Mike Toma, another Hazel Park resident who illegally kept pit bulls. On March 15 Ms Protz-Sanders appeared on a Fox News segment discussing Hazel Park's pit bull legislation. The segment aired several times throughout the day.

On March 16th Protz-Sanders launched the Hazel Park Animal Advocates Facebook page. On March 19 a community meeting was held to discuss new animal legislation for the city. Finally, on March 26, 2015, Senator Dave Robertson introduced Senate Bill 239, which would, if passed, preempt all breed specific legislation in the state of Michigan.

The advocates continued to ratchet up the pressure on Hazel Park. On April 20th they received permission to march in the town's Memorial Day Parade, an otherwise apolitical event.

Best Friends posted a bulk mail form, which resulted in as many as 2½ thousand bulk-mail form letters addressed to Hazel Park's Mayor and Council. The advocates enlisted the aid of Animal Farm Foundation, the premier deep pockets advocacy group.

Finally, after months of gradually increasing pressure, the city of Hazel Park rolled over.  On May 6th the city voted to revoke their ban, while leaving some restrictions in place. The painful irony is that the March 6 incident, which galvanized the advocates and precipitated the revocation of public safety legislation, was an elaborate hoax. Anyone who managed to pay attention during the March 6th Fox TV 6 video could see the effort Ms Kraczkowski put into her performance.

Fox News was duped. The city of Hazel Park was played like a fiddle.

* * * * *
To learn what went on behind closed doors, read
The Debacle at Hazel Park, Part 2

* * * * *
1   Several commenters pointedly note that Ice is also the most common street name for crystal meth, a form of the drug methamphetamine. Ms Kraczkowski claims the name is short for Isis.
2   Mr Dopke surrendered to police the following week and was subsequently sentenced to 40 days in jail for a prior domestic violence charge.
3   Hazel Park news is served by two locals: the Daily Tribune (Royal Oak, 10 minutes to the northwest) and the Oakland Press (Pontiac, 20 minutes to the north).  Both papers are owned by the Digital First Media, whose flagship paper is the Denver Post. Digital First Media's five Michigan papers operate under the oversight of Don Wyatt, a VP of News for the Michigan group.
4   SRUV is indebted to Craven Desires for the Nov 16, 2009 post entitled Michigan Farce.
5   See Preemption and Preemption and Insurance
6   Hazel Park lies less than six miles east of the WJBK Fox 2 studios on Nine Mile Road, in the area made famous in the 2002 film featuring Eminem.

Related post:
Ms Kraczkowski and Mike Toma, both of whom owned pit bulls in defiance of local laws, have both launched crowdfunding appeals; see Crowdfunding Pit Bulls.

3 injured by pit bull after breaking up fight with other dogs
   May 10, 2015; WDIV Detroit
Hazel Park set to lift ban on pit bulls
   May 8, 2015; Daily Tribune
Hazel Park lifts pit bull ban
   May 7, 2015; WDIV Detroit
Hazel Park lifts pit bull ban after dog saves domestic abuse victim
   May 7, 2015; Fox 2 News
Flint Police shoot, run-over dog with history of biting people
   May 7, 2015; MI NBC News
Family dog shot and killed by neighbor in Canton
   May 5, 2015; Detroit Free Press
Hazel Park plans on denigrating the local veterans Memorial Day parade with pitbull promoters and their dogs allowed to walk in the parade (Letter)
   May 1, 2015; Oakland Press
Pit Bull Put Down After Biting Teenager
   April 24, 2015; WLNS (Ingram County)
Woman seriously injured by dog attack in Grosse Pointe Farms
   April 9, 2015; WDIV Detroit
The Hazel Park pit bull ban
   March 15, 2015; Fox News (Discussion/interview panel)
Two more pit bulls face removal as Hazel Park's breed-specific ban controversy rages
   March 12, 2015; Daily Tribune
Hazel Park neighbors, pitbull owners working together to repeal breed ban
   March 10, 2015; Fox News Detroit
Animal rights group intervening to help hero Pit Bull
   March 10, 2015; Fox News Detroit
Pit bull bites Newaygo Co. sheriff’s deputy
   March 9, 2015; WOOD TV
Hero pit bull saves owner during domestic violence, faces removal from home due to city ordinance
   March 7, 2015; Oakland Press
Pitbull credited for saving owner, but will be removed from Hazel Park home
   March 6, 2015; Fox 2 Detroit
Man bitten by pit bull while shopping at PetSmart in Southfield
   January 7, 2015; Oakland Press
Protesters voice outrage over pit bull euthanasia
   November 15, 2009; Oakland Press

Other Sources:
Senate Bill 239 (2015) Legiscan
Senate Bill 239 (2015) MI Legislature
Senate Bill 239 (2015) Text

Statistics quoted on SRUV are from the nation's authoritative source for current dog attack statistics, the 30+ year, continuously updated Dog attack deaths and maimings, U.S. & Canada.
View or download the current PDF

2014 Year-end report of dog attacks
   Animals 24-7; January 3, 2015
32 years of logging fatal & disfiguring dog attacks
   Animals 24-7; September 27, 2014
How many other animals did pit bulls kill in 2014?
   Animals 24-7; January 27, 2015

This page may also include information from Dogsbite &Fatal Pit Bull Attacks.

Google News: Today's pit bull attacks

2014 Dog Bite Related Fatalities on Daxton's Friends
Index of canine fatalities on Daxton's Friends

SRUV uses the definition of "pit bull" as found in the Omaha Municipal Code Section 6-163. As pit bulls are increasingly crossed with exotic mastiffs, Catahoula Leopard Dogs and other breeds, the vernacular definition of "pit bull" must be made even more inclusive.

Sources cited by news media sometimes refer to "Animal Advocates" or sometimes "Experts." In many cases these words are used to refer to single-purpose pit bull advocates who have never advocated for any other breeds or species of animals. Media would be more accurate to refer to these pit bull advocates as advocates of fighting breeds.

Similarly, in many cases pit bull advocates refer to themselves as "dog lovers" or "canine advocates" and media often accepts this usage. The majority of these pit bull advocates are single-purpose advocates of fighting breeds.