I had to read this number twice to believe it. In fact, there was apparently some skepticism all around, that 50,000 wild dogs were roaming the ruins of a once great city.
But similar stories have been appearing for years, and given all the anecdotal evidence, it seems reasonable to assume that the number — and the problems associated with such a menace — are real.
Many of the dogs are pets that simply wander around the city without a license or a leash. Technically, it’s against the law to allow a dog to roam, but who’s going to enforce the law? The bottom line is that the overworked, understaffed animal control department is hopelessly overwhelmed.
“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.
There has been some pushback against the idea that there are 50,000 wild dogs in the city. The number apparently comes from the Detroit animal control division director Harry Ward. But the local Humane Society disputes the number as do some animal rescue organizations.
But the boots on the ground — the animal control officers — know what they know. If they say there are packs of 20 or more wild dogs roaming the city, I would take their word for it. Besides, there were 903 dog bites in the city last year, including one horrific incident where a woman had her scalp torn off during an attack. And the Post Office doesn’t stop delivering mail because of one or two angry dogs in a neighborhood. Regardless of the real number, Detroit has a problem — one more that they can’t solve.
The Detroit city government will never again have the funds or manpower to deal with this problem. There must be a community-wide effort to address the crisis humanely, but forcefully. Some private organizations are helping, but it’s a drop in the bucket. And the problem is exacerbated by the fact that even if there were a lot of citizens who wanted to help, dealing with packs of wild dogs is not something that should be attempted by amateurs. Trained animal control workers appear to be in short supply.
What business in their right mind would want to open up in a city with packs of wild dogs roaming free? The 70,000 abandoned buildings are an eyesore, but they sit on property that can be purchased and redeveloped. Dealing with 50,000 animals that pose a threat to the safety of citizens is a far more difficult problem and contributes to the sense that Detroit is a dead city. In short, the business climate won’t improve until they address their animal control problems.