Why Detroit Animal Control can’t be trusted with rescued dogs

Thousands of homeless, neglected dogs wander Detroit's streets. By Steve Neavling/MCM
Thousands of homeless, neglected dogs wander Detroit’s streets. By Steve Neavling/MCM

Most dogs don’t leave Detroit Animal Control alive.

That’s a chilling reality for volunteers at the Detroit Dog Rescue, who risk their lives to save dogs from the streets, abusive owners and starvation. Now the city wants to seize the dogs as early as today because the rescue group doesn’t yet have all of its paperwork.

Knowing that a seizure would almost certainly end in the dogs’ euthanasia, shelter volunteers and rescue groups are 0n edge and are pleading with Mayor Mike Duggan’s administration to halt any actions until both sides can meet. But Duggan’s office has dodged questions all weekend, stoking the anxiety.

Here are five reasons to worry about Detroit Animal Control:

1. Detroit euthanizes about 4,000 dogs a year, or about 75% of the canine population, according to the Michigan Department of Agricultural and Rural Development. So many dogs are euthanized that their carcasses have been shoveled into dump trucks and incinerated. State inspectors and former employees have said the city often kills healthy dogs because officials refuse to work with rescue groups or find other ways to find the animals a home.

2. Harry Ward, head of Detroit Animal Control, was the subject of a petition drive calling for his termination in November 2011 after he ignored public outcry to save Ace, an emaciated, stray pit bull whose cowering image was aired on TV news and became a popular cause on social media. Ward steadfastly refuses to adopt out pit bulls.

3. An employee was fired in 2002 for feeding puppies to a python, just one of many discoveries that included cages filled with excrement, dead dogs stacked atop each other and underfed animals.

4. Animal Control officers mistakenly seized and euthanized a licensed dog and her nine puppies while a Detroit man, Stacy Moreland, was out of town. The city killed the dogs two days of seizing it, despite a law that requires a four-day wait.

5. Animal Control does not scan for microchips, which is an increasingly popular, simple way for a dog to be identified. That means the city is likely missing opportunities to find dogs’ lost homes.
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Animal Control, which is operating with a fraction of the budget it used to have, also seized ducks and chickens last year.

Steve Neavling

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.

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