City of Detroit Animal Control officer Malachi Jackson with a pit bull that was captured to be quarantined after biting someone in Detroit on 19 August 2013. As many as 50,000 stray dogs roam the streets and vacant homes of bankrupt Detroit. Photo: Jeff Kowalsky / Bloomberg 

By Chris Christoff
20 August 2013

(Bloomberg) – As many as 50,000 stray dogs roam the streets and vacant homes of bankrupt Detroit, replacing residents, menacing humans who remain and overwhelming the city’s ability to find them homes or peaceful deaths.

Dens of as many as 20 canines have been found in boarded-up homes in the community of about 700,000 that once pulsed with 1.8 million people. One officer in the Police Department's skeleton animal-control unit recalled a pack splashing away in a basement that flooded when thieves ripped out water pipes.

“The dogs were having a pool party,” said Lapez Moore, 30. “We went in and fished them out.”

Poverty roils the Motor City and many dogs have been left to fend for themselves, abandoned by owners who are financially stressed or unaware of proper care. Strays have killed pets, bitten mail carriers and clogged the animal shelter, where more than 70 percent are euthanized.

“With these large open expanses with vacant homes, it’s as if you designed a situation that causes dog problems,” said Harry Ward, head of animal control.

The number of strays signals a humanitarian crisis, said Amanda Arrington of the Humane Society of the United States, based in Washington. She heads a program that donated $50,000 each to organizations in Detroit and nine other U.S cities to get pets vaccinated, fed, spayed and neutered.

Arrington said when she visited Detroit in October, “It was almost post-apocalyptic, where there are no businesses, nothing except people in houses and dogs running around.”

“The suffering of animals goes hand in hand with the suffering of people.”

She said pet owners who move leave behind dogs, hoping neighbors will care for them. Those dogs take to the streets and reproduce. Compounding that are the estimated 70,000 vacant buildings that provide shelter for dogs, or where some are chained without care to ward off thieves, Ward said.

Most strays are pets that roam, often in packs that form around a female in heat, Ward said. Few are true feral dogs that have had no human contact.

Ward said Detroit’s three shelters -- his and two non-profit facilities -- take in 15,000 animals a year, including strays and pets that are seized or given up by owners. […]

Aggressive dogs force the U.S. Postal Service to temporarily halt mail delivery in some neighborhoods, said Ed Moore, a Detroit-area spokesman. He said there were 25 reports of mail carriers bitten by dogs in Detroit from October through July. Though most are by pets at homes, strays have also attacked, Moore said.

“It’s been a persistent problem,” he said.

Mail carrier Catherine Guzik told of using pepper spray on swarms of tiny, ferocious dogs in a southwest Detroit neighborhood.

“It’s like Chihuahuaville,” Guzik said as she walked her route. [more]

Abandoned Dogs Roam Detroit in Packs as Humans Dwindle



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