DETROIT, MI – When we see pictures in the media of thousands of stray animals roaming the streets, we often think of third world countries. We don’t think this could happen in America as we look upon the faces of the starving and injured animals in the pictures before us. But in the bankrupt city of Detroit this is the reality as more people leave the city in search of greener pastures and leave their animals behind to defend for themselves.
Detroit has had a severe problem with strays (dogs) for many years. In 2011 Detroit Officials shut down the production of Discovery’s 10-part documentary show, Unleashed. The documentary featured stray dogs surviving in the city. Detroit Officials were worried because of the severity of their stray problem, someone would get hurt. A representative from Mayor Dave Bing's office explained, the city would not put the safety of the film crew at risk. But after the city filed for chapter 9 bankruptcy this July, the amount of abandoned animals is speculated to have risen to staggering proportions. If the speculation is true, it puts the number of stray animals (dogs and cats) from 50,000 a-year-ago, and could now be close to 70,000 animals roaming the streets, left in abandoned houses and lots, to fend for themselves.
“It was almost post-apocalyptic, where there are no businesses, nothing except people in houses and dogs running around.” Amanda Arrington of the Humane Society of the United States, based in Washington, stated, as she toured the streets of Detroit in October of last year. The stray epidemic was thought to be out-of-control then. Arrington toured the streets last year because she heads a program that donated $50,000 to an organization that helps pets get vaccinated, fed, spayed and neutered.
Harry Ward, head of animal control in Detroit is all too familiar with the stray epidemi. With an annual budget of $1.6 million, Ward has four officers to cover the 139-square-mile (360-square-kilometer) city, seven days a week. That is 11 fewer than when he took command in 2008. He has one dog-bite investigator, down from three. “We are really suffering from fatigue, short staffed” and work too much overtime.” Ward stated. “The officers are bringing in about half the number of animals the crews did in 2008.”
Because the city could not pay the $20,000 it needed to haul the euthanized shelter animals away, the shelters had to stop taking in any new animals through the month of July, which only compounded the problem.
“Aggressive stray dogs have force the U.S. Postal Service to temporarily halt mail delivery in some neighborhoods,” stated Ed Moore, a Detroit-area spokesman.
Detroit city is known to be one of the top cities for dog fighting. Michigan is ranked 23rd in the states for penalties imposed on people that are caught fighting dogs, but for years Detroit has lacked the man power it needs to investigate dog fighting crimes. So it is no surprise that over 40-50% of the strays running the streets are pit bulls, and another 20-30% pit bull mixes. With the shelters being full and now at a 70-90% euthanasia rate, the pit bulls and mixes will be the first to die.
Organizations stepping up to help the homeless animals of Detroit.
Bill, and Missi, Bellottie, Co-Founders of Detroit Bully Corps., rescue and rehabilitate the pit bulls from the streets of Detroit. Their current facility can only house 15-20 dogs at any given time, but they have recently put in an offer that was accepted for a larger facility so they can help more homeless pit bulls in their area.
Steve Barone the founder of the local nonprofit group Detroit Area Rescue Team (DART), has spent years raising supplies and money for the low-income and homeless people of Detroit. But because of the severity of the stray problem, they have started collecting food donations for the homeless animals. Their trucks that could be seen around the city collecting everything from non-perishable food items, to blankets for low-income and homeless people can now be seen picking up pet food and other pet items for the homeless animals.
Daniel “Hush” Carlisle a local rapper in Detroit, and Monica Martino, co-founders of Detroit Dog Rescue (DDR) started DDR in February 2011 after the City of Detroit refused to allow access to the Discovery channels 10-part television series Unleashed. DDR is focused on raising awareness for the plight of the forgotten stray animals of Detroit. They currently do not house any stray animals but they work with local authorities, at their request, to ensure the safe capture of the animals the authorities have to remove off the streets.
DART is hosting a week-long donation drive for DDR to raise money and awareness for the homeless dogs of Detroit City.
Right now in Detroit the out-of-control stray problem is only one of the many problems facing this city. The Emergency Medical Teams (EMT) will not be dispatched to a crime scene because of the danger it may poses to the EMT workers. Animal Control Officers have to wear bullet proof vests on all their calls. The sparsely staffed Police Department cannot handle all the calls coming in, and some of the 911 calls will go unanswered. The city is looking more like a third world country every day, and if this city can fall, what other ones will follow?
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