By Doug Sanders
Mike Toma just became collateral damage in Hazel Park’s war on Pit Bulls.
After helping organize support for his neighbor and friend Jamie Kraczkowski, who was ordered by city officials to send her Pit Bull into exile, Toma, 33, now finds that he’s facing the same fate. The day after a contentious Hazel Park City Council meeting at which animal advocates and others spoke out against a citywide ban on pit bulls, police and animal control officers knocked on Toma’s door and told him that he, too, had five days to get rid of his dogs.
“I was shocked that they targeted me for helping Jamie,” Toma said. “I stirred the pot and now I’m being punished for it. When I saw that paper they shoved into my screen door, I cried like a little kid. I mean, I’m a single guy and those dogs are my kids.”
Those dogs are 15-year-old Puppy and 2-year-old Diesel.
Toma’s problems began when he stepped in to help Kraczkowski with her situation, which unraveled when her dog Isis protected her from an attack by an abusive boyfriend. When city officials became aware that Isis is a Pit Bull, they used a city ordinance that bars such breeds from living in Hazel Park to order the dog out of town.
All Pit Bulls, according to the February 2012 ordinance, are classified as “dangerous animals.”
For his part, Toma, who had helped Kraczkowski adopt Isis as a puppy, felt responsible when the ordinance was used on his friend and decided to help her go public with her plight.
It didn’t help.
Now he’s caught up in a controversy over breed-specific laws that advocates say not only discriminate against dogs and their owners, they don’t work.
“It basically says pet owners are welcome to live in our community, except you and you because your dogs look a certain way,” Courtney Protz-Sanders, director of Michigan’s Political Action Committee for Animals or MI-PACA. “That’s just the wrong way to go and will never accomplish what the people behind the ordinance hope it will.”
Although City Council members said Tuesday night that they will listen to alternatives from animal welfare groups, for now, Hazel Park officials are digging in.
“It’s obvious that the Pit Bull is a more dangerous breed, but not all Pit Bulls are dangerous. We are open to other solutions that might help achieve the objective of residents’ safety, but we are safer now with the ban as it stands,” says City Manager Ed Klobucher.
Toma said he’s bewildered that a city such as Hazel Park would wade into such waters.
“My dogs have never been a danger to anyone,” he said, “but the city has made me a target. I don’t want to make the situation worse, I just want my due process.
”From what I hear, Hazel Park wants to be like Ferndale, but when you do stuff like this, even people who don’t own dogs aren’t going to live somewhere where they discriminate.”
To keep up on what’s happening with Pit Bulls in Hazel Park, a Facebook page has been created here.
Since they don’t deem it necessary to put contact information for the council members on their website, you can email the City Clerk and have her forward your emails here.