Detroit officials are defending how they handled a 2-year-old family dog that died after being held in a cramped, bloody cage.
A police report states that Major, a pit bull, escaped from a house on the city’s west side and bit an 8-year-old boy and his great-grandmother. In an interview with the family, they told us the great-grandmother received stitches to her leg, and the boy suffered scrapes on his stomach and face.
“It could have been a lot worse,” the grandmother, Veronica Neece, told me between sobs. “It was really, really scary, and it happened so fast. Anything could have happened.”
What happened next was a series of blunders by the city of Detroit, which refuses to answer follow-up questions to a press release issued Monday afternoon.
Instead of seizing the dog on the day of the bites – June 25 – Animal Control officers waited until June 29. Although they planned to euthanize Major, “the dog was released in error by Animal Control” on July 7, according to the press release issued by the police department but attributed to Animal Control.
“Once the error was recognized, the dog was picked up again by Animal Control officers the next day,” the press release read.
No warrant was issued.
The owner of the dog, Veronica Seward, was horrified when she saw a fatigued Major bleeding and covered in feces a few days later. He barely recognized her.
On Saturday, Major died, likely from the parvovirus and being confined to squalid conditions, a veterinarian told Seward. Sores were found on Major’s body because of the sharp, cramped cage.
Although city officials were quick to explain why they picked up the dog, they still refuse to comment on the chronically squalid conditions, which have been a problem for decades. The city has been cited for feeding puppies to a snake and accidentally euthanizing a family dog.
More than 4,000 dogs – or 75% that come into the facility – are put to death every year because the tax-financed shelter refuses to work with rescue groups.
Mayor Mike Duggan, who has a dog, has steered clear of questions and won’t say if anything is being done to improve conditions.
To express concerns about the unaddressed problems at Animal Control, call the mayor’s office at 313-224-3400.
The city last month threatened to seize dogs from a respected rescue group but backed off after public pressure.
In October, two Animal Control officers seized goats and chickens without warning from a Detroit couple because the city has an ordinance prohibiting “farm” animals that aren’t “securely under restraint” by a trained professional.
Dog Aide, an animal advocacy group, told residents to keep their animals away from Animal Control, if possible.
“We advise all owners who have a dog at DAC currently on impound to be advised that parvovirus is present in that shelter and decontamination protocols are not being followed,” the group wrote in a press release. “Your animal will not receive treatment or care. Please visit your animal every day and stay active in your animal’s care.”
Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.