Packs of wild, abandoned dogs are roaming the streets of Detroit, leaving city officials overwhelmed at the prospect of handing an issue that raises both animal rights and safety concerns.
“It was almost post-apocalyptic, where there are no businesses, nothing except people in houses and dogs running around,” the Humane Society of the United States director Amanda Arrington told Bloomberg News about a recent visit to Detroit. “The suffering of animals goes hand in hand with the suffering of people.”
Bloomberg reports that packs of the dogs have been spotted in groups as large as 20. In one case, Detroit police officer Lapez Moore said the city’s animal-control unit recently found several of the dogs inside a flooded basement where thieves had torn out the building’s water pipes.
“The dogs were having a pool party,” Moore said. “We went in and fished them out.”
But the reality of the situation is more dire than an impromptu animal pool party. Local shelters say they are forced to euthanize about 70 percent of the dogs that are brought it, and their facilities are overwhelmed by the sheer amount of abandoned and stray animals.
The stray-dog claims may sound hard to believe, but they are backed by a number of similar stories over the past two years confirming that the city’s economic woes have created a crisis that extends beyond the city’s declining human population. As far back as 2003, National Geographic reported the growing number of feral dogs in Detroit.
And there are a growing number of stories surrounding the thousands of dogs that are not brought in.
The city says there were 903 reported dog bites last year, including a woman who had her scalp bitten off by two strays.
Attacks have become so prevalent that the U.S. Postal Service has temporarily halted delivery to some of Detroit’s neighborhoods after 25 carriers reported being bitten by dogs from October 2012 through July 2013, the story notes.
In a truly bizarre development, mail carrier Catherine Guzik said she was attacked by “swarms of tiny, ferocious dogs” while on the job.
“It’s like Chihuahuaville,” she said.
Pit bills, or mixed breeds of the dog, are the most prevalent type of dog left out in the wild. Animal control officials say the dogs are often used for criminal purposes by individuals who rely on the dogs to guard abandoned homes where stolen property is kept.
“With these large open expanses with vacant homes, it’s as if you designed a situation that causes dog problems,” Harry Ward, head of the city’s animal control department, told Bloomberg.
Ward says the problem is compounded by the fact that his department’s budget has been slashed while the number of stray dogs has skyrocketed. According to Ward, he has four officers to cover all 139 square miles of his department’s jurisdiction and only one employee to deal with dog-bite investigations. When he started the job in 2008, Ward said the city had 15 officers and four dog-bite investigators.
“We are really suffering from fatigue, short staffed” and work too much overtime, he said.
A number of private organizations have stepped in to address the issue with plans to create a no-kill shelter to house some of the animals. But in the meantime, residents and city officials say they are at a loss for a viable solution to bring the situation under control.