New dangerous dog bill proposed after deadly dog mauling

Posted at 10:13 PM, Aug 07, 2014
and last updated 2014-08-07 23:21:47-04

KALAMAZOO, Mich.-- New legislation in the works, designed to protect kids, pedestrians, letter carriers, utility workers, and animal control officers from dangerous dogs. The push for change comes after the tragic death of a Lapeer county man originally from West Michigan.

46-year-old Craig Sytsma was jogging when he was mauled and killed by two cane corsos in July. They’ve since been euthanized, and the owners now face second degree murder charges. State Representative, Sean McCann in Kalamazoo says the bottom line is that owners should be held responsible for their pets, and their actions. Something Sytsma’s family agrees with.

“It's a pain in your heart that will never ever go away,” said Jacque Sytsma, mother of Craig Sytsma.

What happened to Jacque Sytsma's son, Craig, is unbearable.

“It could happen to anyone, anywhere, anytime, and it could have been prevented,” said Jacque.

Their son Craig died on his daily jog on this road. Running was an outlet for him after beating cancer two years ago.

“That's why he's so active in all these sports he told me it would keep the cancer away,” said Richard Sytsma, father of Craig.

For Jacque and her husband Richard, the tragedy has been made more difficult by sitting through the legal battle against the dogs' owners.

“We will be at every one unfortunately. They are really dragging it out every time over and over again. It’s going to take a while to get through the court system,” said Jacque.

They say the love they have for their son is pushing them forward.

“Something more has to be done. People need to be responsible for their animals. We are not that kind of people who are revengeful that isn't what this is about. It's about justice,” said Jacque.

Part of the case against the owners includes prior complaints about  dogs orearly signs they were dangerous. State Representative Sean McCann (D) of Kalamazoo wants to prevent this type of thing from happening. Now he is sponsoring new legislation he says will hold owners accountable.

“It allows animal control to have a tool in their toolbox. If they know a dog that they think is going to cause a problem, tragedy, or a bite and they are able to do something proactively, then that will make a difference. It’s the piece that has really been missing.  Now, there’s only a chance to do something after a dog attacks someone.

The bill creates a complaint process allowing authorities to label a dog "potentially dangerous"... or "dangerous". It forces owners to notify mail carriers and others of the dog, and keep it secured.

McCann is no stranger to the responsibilities of owning a pet. He has a large dog named ‘Arnold’, who he keeps watchful eye over when people are around.

“I mean look at Arnold. He scares people when people see him. They are like ‘Woah!’ He's this big intimidating dog, but he would never hurt anyone,” said McCann.

Regardless of his dog being harmless, McCann says he takes pre-cautions regardless of who's around, and every dog owner should be forced to do the same.

A belief the Sytsma family shares, standing by the new bill they say they could help save someone else’s life.

“We are not going to let our son die in vain,” said Jacque.

The bill is still in its early stages, only filed at this point. There’s no timetable for committee research, or a vote on the floor.

McCann says the bill will not create too much paper work and other ‘red tape’ for authorities, but he says he’s hoping Animal Control officers acting as the middle man will help keep it manageable.

Meanwhile, the Sytsma family has set up a fund in Craig’s memory with money going towards his child’s college fund.  If you’d like to donate the fund is set up through Fifth Third Bank.