As many as 50,000 stray dogs are roaming Detroit in packs, according to a shocking article by Bloomberg, with dens of dogs — as many as 20 — taking over many of the boarded-up, abandoned homes in the bankrupt city.
One officer in the police department’s budget-crunched animal control until recently found a pack in a flooded basement.
“The dogs were having a pool party,” he said. “We went in and fished them out.”
How did the situation get so bad? Amanda Arrington of the Humane Society of the United States, who visited Detroit in October, told Bloomberg that people who move often leave behind dogs, hoping the neighbors will take care of them. The dogs then take to the streets and reproduce — and find they have the city to themselves.
“It was almost post-apocalyptic,” Arrington said of Detroit during her visit, “where there are no businesses, nothing except people in houses and dogs running around. The suffering of animals goes hand in hand with the suffering of people.”
Arrington is the head of a program that donates money to get pets vaccinated, fed, spayed, and neutered in U.S. cities. Detroit and nine ofter cities have received $50,000 each.
Harry Ward, head of animal control, said the packs often form around females in heat. He said the strays are typically former pets, and that there are few truly feral dogs. Pit Bull and Pit mixes dominate the ranks, thanks to the prevalence of the breed in the city due to dog fighting and home protection.
“With these large, open expanses with vacant homes, it’s as if you designed a situation that causes dog problems,” he told Bloomberg.
The massive stray population is also made up of owners who let their dogs wander, said Kristen Huston, who leads the Detroit office of All About Animals Rescue.
“Technically, it’s illegal to let a dog roam, but with the city being bankrupt, who’s going to do anything about it?” she said.
Huston told Bloomberg that she visits poor neighborhoods with dog food and dog houses, educating people about how to care for their animals.
As for the efforts of the animal control unit, Ward says his budget and staff has been slashed — he now has only four officers to patrol the 139-square-mile city, as compared with 15 when he took command in 2008.