GRANDVILLE MI - PARENTS OF CRAIG SYTSMA, MAULED TO DEATH BY 2 CANE CORSOS, ARE PUSHING FOR A STATE LAW TO PROTECT THE PUBLIC AGAINST DANGEROUS ANIMALS
GRANDVILLE, Mich. (WOOD) — Nearly a year after dogs mauled their son to death in Lapeer, a Grandville couple is frustrated that it hasn’t led to change.
They are pushing for a state law to protect the public against dangerous animals.Craig Sytsma, a 46-year-old father of three,died July 23when two cane corsos with aggressive histories attacked him while he was jogging. The dogs are a large mastiff-type breed.
He died in the arms of a woman who tried to save him.
“He said to her, ‘I’m bleeding out, I’m dying,'” Sytsma’s mother said.
“This could happen to anyone,” his mother, Jacque Sytsma, told 24 Hour News 8 on Friday. “I don’t know if people understand that. When you’re just innocently jogging down a road, trying to stay in shape, loving the countryside and all of a sudden animals that are domestic animals attack you.”
Richard and Jacque Sytsma said they plan to give victim-impact statements in Lapeer County Circuit Court on Tuesday as the dogs’ owners are sentenced.
Sebastiano Quagliata, 45, and his wife, Valbona Lucaj, 44, originally were charged with second-degree murder but pleaded no contest to reduced charges of owning a dangerous dog causing death. They could face prison time. Their dogs were put down shortly after the attack.
“How much time is enough?” Jacque Sytsma said. “Our son will never be back with us again. So I don’t know how much time is enough. I don’t know that.”
“What is a human life worth?” her husband asked. “It’s hard to get your hands around.”
More importantly, they said, is that their son’s death leads to change. His mother wants it to be his legacy.
“They knew they were dangerous, and they didn’t do anything about it and the third time someone was killed and I just think there’s something wrong with our laws,” Jacque Sytsma said. “The people who owned them, they should have saw that at some point there was going to be a problem.”
The attack led to dangerous animal legislation in the Michigan House of Representatives, but it never made it out of committee.
State Rep. Rob VerHeulen (R-Walker) said he plans to review the legislation and either re-introduce it or introduce a similar bill this summer.
VerHeulen started working on it after call this week from Sytsma’s father, Richard Sytsma, who was bitten three times in his career as a mail career.
“I told him I’m not going to sit on it,” VerHeulen said. “I’d like to move it as quickly as I can.”
The legislation would make it easier to track dangerous animals that aren’t put down. It would require they be sterilized, licensed and have identification numbers either tattooed on their upper inner left rear thigh or in an electronic implant. It would also require owners to keep them secure.
If owners take them out for a walk, they would be required to keep them on a leash and muzzle them.
The bill also would require Animal Control to keep a list of potentially dangerous animals and that the owners notify the local U.S. Post Office and utility companies.
“Owners of dangerous dogs, once they’re determined to be dangerous, they have to be dealt with, and it’s going to protect everyone in the community,” Richard Sytsma said.
In the meantime, the Systmas said they hope next week’s sentencing will help give them closure.
“I don’t think it ever goes away,” Jacque Sytsma said. “You think you’re getting better and then you wake up and there’s a reminder, there’s a picture. There are reminders every day. He was very faithful in calling us on our birthday, on Father’s Day on Mother’s Day. He was just a very good son and he loved his family.”