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Detroit, Michigan Shelter is a Disgrace!

I know Halloween is over but this is a true horror story! Please be warned before reading this article from DetNews.com that it is EXTREMELY...

Joy  |  Nov 10th 2006


Animal Shelter Fails To Care For Dogs

Detroit Pound

I know Halloween is over but this is a true horror story! Please be warned before reading this article from DetNews.com that it is EXTREMELY upsetting! If much of this article is true, this place sounds like an animal concentration camp!

If any Dogsters have any updates on the situation, please bark in!

Horrors fill Detroit pound

David Josar / The Detroit News

DETROIT — The city’s Animal Control Center, which eliminated 38 percent of its animal control officers the past year due to budget cuts, is under fire because of inhumane conditions and the mistreatment of animals.

State officials are working with the center, in hopes of upgrading animal care and keeping it open.

“That place is a death sentence for dogs,” said Sheri McCrory, a materials planner from White Lake.

She volunteered at the center for four months this year, but quit because she couldn’t stomach the way animals were treated.

“Animals are better off running on the streets. At least there they could find their own food and water.”

City officials acknowledge the center’s problems, and plan to spend $3 million in bond money to build a facility next year. That would eliminate some of the structural problems, like kennels that are difficult to clean, dimly illuminated and poorly ventilated, and allow the remaining workers to better use their time, and therefore correct some chronic violations — such as dogs without water, dead cats and dogs piled up next to the living and generally unsanitary conditions, according to state inspection reports.

The Animal Control Center, in an industrial area in the shadow of the Ambassador Bridge in southwest Detroit, annually handles about 10,000 stray cats, dogs and other animals, including chickens and reptiles. It is the busiest animal control unit of any city in the state, although countywide facilities in Macomb, Genesee and Kent counties handle more domestic animals. It’s unclear how many animals at the Detroit facility are adopted.

The problems in Detroit, according to state inspectors and local animal rescue groups, go beyond the building.

“The dogs are better off dead than here,” said Connie Kramer, founder of Pet Realtors, a Commerce Township group that rescues Yorkshire terriers.

Shelter ‘sorely understaffed’

Last year, one of Kramer’s volunteers arranged with the facility to pick up Brownie, a Yorkie, to give the dog a permanent home, according to state records. The woman was told the animal was in decent health, but when her husband picked up Brownie, the animal was emaciated and had a red blanket embedded in its flesh. The dog was immediately taken to a vet where it was diagnosed with gangrene and was euthanized.

State investigators who probed Brownie’s case found that budget cuts made it difficult for the city to cover weekend shifts and to adequately monitor the animals.

Meanwhile, McCrory, who has helped find homes for more than 100 unwanted Keeshonds, took video and dozens of photographs while working at Detroit Animal Control. They show dead animals, dogs sleeping in their own waste, dirty examination rooms and animals without food.

“It’s very sorely understaffed,” said McCrory, who also said she bought hundreds of pounds of dog chow out of her own pocket because Detroit Animal Control would periodically run out. “Some animal control officers take great pride in taking care of the dogs, but there are some people there just for the paycheck.”

City spokesman Matt Allen acknowledged the cutbacks — there are now 11 animal control officers who staff the center and go out on calls, down from 18 a year ago — have stressed the facility. But he said irresponsible pet owners exacerbate the problem.

“Are we task-stretched? Yes. Are we at maximum effort? Yes,” Allen said. “More than manpower, funding or anything else, it’s irresponsible animal ownership that is the problem.”

Not enough people in Detroit recognize that having a dog or cat means they must take care of that animal for its natural life, Allen said.

The new facility, he said, should mollify the concerns raised by the state and animal rights advocates like McCrory.

In September, the city got approval from the Detroit Building Authority to spend bond money approved by voters in 2002 to build an animal control compound. It’s in the process of hiring a consultant to move the project along.

Trying to fix center

Investigators and officials from the Michigan Department of Agriculture, which oversees shelters, kennels and pet stores, are working with the city to bring the center up to state standards.

“That’s good news if there are plans in place to build a new facility,” said Nancy Frank, the assistant state veterinarian. “The facility is old enough that it’s inefficient for cleaning and a lot of the problems could be corrected with a new facility.”

Although the state used to inspect animal control facilities monthly, inspections now are only conducted in response to complaints, Frank said.

The state consistently gets about a half-dozen complaints about Detroit Animal Control annually, according to Department of Agriculture records.

Even though Detroit Animal Control has been plagued with problems for more than a decade, Frank said that keeping the facility open and working in the city is a better option for the community’s public health than shuttering the facility, although that remains a possibility.

“Detroit has quite an issue with stray animals. Sometimes they’ve been on the street quite a while and their health isn’t that good,” said Frank, who has worked 17 years for the state. “It can actually be worse to close a facility, even if it has problems, because now there would be nowhere for the animal to go.”

Detroit Animal Control investigates some animal cruelty cases, but most of the cases in Detroit are handled by the Michigan Humane Society.

The Humane Society’s officers have become popular heroes on the Animal Planet’s “Animal Cops” cable television show.

The state has never closed an animal shelter, although it has closed pet stores.

Frank added that southeastern Michigan has been hit by a rash of rabies cases — there were 41 across the state in 2005 and 46 through Oct. 25 of this year — and animal control is one way to keep the deadly disease in check.

Michigan Department of Agriculture officials are working with Detroit to correct the problems.

If that doesn’t work, they can request a formal hearing. After that, if the state still isn’t satisfied, the shelter could be closed.

According to recent reports, court records and state inspections:

Dead animals were repeatedly found in cages with live animals awaiting adoption or that had been found as strays.

Animals were underfed and did not have fresh water.

A Detroit man, Stacy Moreland, received a $2,500 mediation award in Wayne County Circuit Court after animal control officers mistakenly seized and euthanized his licensed dog, Kippe, and her nine puppies while he was out of town. They were killed in two days, even though they are supposed to be held for at least four.

Cats and dogs picked up wandering loose on the city’s streets and those impounded for quarantine did not receive medical care.

In one case, a dog that was quarantined after biting a child sustained broken bones while in custody.

State investigators could not find out what happened.

Two years ago a city worker was fired after she fed shelter puppies to a python.

The city was later forced to rehire her due to civil service rules. Allen said the woman was required to undergo counseling and has been an exemplary employee since.

A state investigation was triggered in 2003 by an anonymous caller after a woman, looking at the shelter for her stray cat, was horrified to find cages filled with dead cats.

Last July, there were so many dead and euthanized animals at the shelter, the city used dump trucks of the Department of Public Works to haul them to the city’s incinerator to be burned.

Ongoing physical plant problems include poor ventilation in the cat room and sick animal room; broken cages; not enough bleach used for disinfection; and improper fencing that would allow dogs and cats to escape the facility.

Mary Dresbach, co-founder of Jethro’s Place Animal Sanctuary, a Ferndale-based animal rescue group, said complaints about Detroit Animal Control have been persistent for years and little seems to change.

On her group’s Web site along with listings of dogs and cats that need homes, Dresbach has posted the names and addresses of Detroit officials, including the mayor and City Council members, and urges people concerned about the facility to write them asking for changes.

Follow this link to read more.