Having worked in the animal welfare business in the city of Detroit for nine years before moving to California, I thought I had seen the worst when it comes to overpopulation of animals. At the animal shelter I managed, we would often take in 100 animals a day. After the former auto-manufacturing powerhouse declared bankruptcy in July of this year, forcing cutbacks in many services, one of them being dog control, the situation has turned dismal.
The City of Detroit’s Animal Control had to stop taking in stray animals for a month this summer because the kennels were full and the city wasn’t able to pay the bill to haul away the euthanized animals. Sadly, Animal Control officers’ jobs have also been cut, meaning more stray dogs are roaming the streets. Four years ago, the city had 15 Animal Control officers who would round up strays; today they have only four.
Almost 2 million people used to live in Detroit. Now it’s closer to 700,000. And tens of thousands of buildings have been abandoned, some of which have been taken over by stray dogs. The combination of the economic loss and the cutbacks to Animal Control have resulted in an estimated 50,000 dogs wandering the streets of Detroit, many of them in packs.
The stray-dog problem in Detroit has gotten so bad that most postal workers arm themselves with pepper spray to avoid getting bit. Detroit ranks sixth on the 2012 U.S. Postal Service list of cities with the most dog attacks on mail carriers. Bloomberg reports that some mail carriers have stopped delivering to certain neighborhoods altogether to avoid packs of vicious once-domesticated Chihuahuas. According to Bloomberg, “Twenty-five mail workers suffered dog bites between October and July, the same month the pound stopped accepting canines.” And just as things seem to be getting worse for dog bites, two dog-bite investigators’ jobs were cut.
Thankfully, there are animal rescue groups trying to tackle the stray-dog situation in Detroit. The no-kill organization Detroit Dog Rescue focuses on raising awareness of the mounting homeless and stray-dog problem in Detroit, along with advocating for humane rescue alternatives such as no-kill sheltering, foster care and adoptions, pet identification, and healthy pet population control through spay and neutering. Detroit Dog Rescue also specializes in community outreach, and they work closely with city and statewide organizations in order to educate and involve people in this cause. For more information or to donate, visit www.detroitdogrescue.com.
Although Detroit Dog Rescue is working to raise awareness and help find homes for the tens of thousands of dogs who are in need, it is obviously an overwhelming problem that requires help from many organizations. The Michigan Humane Society is another organization that is helping to make a dent in this situation. The Michigan Humane Society cares for more than 100,000 animals each year through their life-saving programs and services. They are a private, nonprofit organization that has been serving the animals and people of metro Detroit and beyond since 1877. They receive no government funding and depend on the generosity of individual and corporate supporters to fund their programs and services. If you would like to help, visit www.michiganhumane.org
Although it’s easy to turn a blind eye to the stray-dog situation in Detroit, the circumstance is unlike one experienced in a modern American city. The drastic social and economic changes that the city has undergone have left Detroit unable to solve many of its residents’ problems, so consequently the plight of the city’s animals has been reduced to an afterthought. It is unlikely that the problem of Detroit’s stray animals and the residents they terrorize will be solved without help from the outside.
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