By Christy Strawser
DETROIT (CBS Detroit) Claiming it euthanizes 95 percent of the animals it collects, an online petition to shut down Detroit’s Animal Control seems to be galvanizing the community.
Nearly 12,000 people have signed a petition on change.org that demands the closure of the department that’s responsible for keeping the streets safe from stray dogs and keeping stray dogs safe from a horrible fate at the hands of the elements.
Also, a protest took place Thursday led by Citizens for Change for Detroit Dogs & Cats with the same message: Shut down Animal Control. Detroit attorney Tamara French, who leads the group, said she has submitted 12 documents asking for information about Animal Control, which have so far gone unanswered.
Questions include how many dogs are collected every year, how many days they’re kept before euthanasia, when microchips are checked and how owners are notified, if temperaments are tested — and how they’re tested — and how many dogs are turned over to the Michigan Humane Society.
“We don’t feel there’s transparency,” a protester said.
A report submitted to the Michigan Department of Agriculture shows Detroit Animal Control collected 3,869 dogs in 2013, and returned 157 of them to their owners. Another 2,258 cats were collected, with 13 of those getting reunited with their owner.
This follows unrelated reports from two years ago that claimed Detroit had 50,000 stray dogs roaming the streets.
“Fifty or 60 dogs are going to die today, and cats too,” French said at the protest.
Harry Ward, director of Detroit’s Animal Control, came outside during the protest and said he’s guided by one goal: public safety.
Ward told WWJ’s Mike Campbell the euthanasia rates are similar, if not the same, to the two other licensed shelters in the city of Detroit –which he admits is still too high.
Ward said he plans to have more discussion with the group once more information becomes available.
In the meantime, the petition is gaining strength. It says, of the animal control numbers: “This is unacceptable and archaic. Detroit is experiencing a Renaissance, but our dogs suffering at a rate unknown in any part of the world. Adoptions were given up years ago. There are no vaccination services or spay and neutering.”
They’re calling on Mayor Mike Duggan to take control of the situation, and French says the mayor has assured their group he will meet with them.
“Reading the latest report they put out, the more I’m into this, the more I’m thinking nobody has any idea… All these dogs are dying waiting for the city,” French said.
She claims some Detroit cops trap dogs when they can and turn them over to private rescue groups to keep them away from Animal Control. “Lori Briggs, a Detroit officer with 22 years experience, says she’s trapped 1,000 dogs,” French said. “Why are Detroit police giving dogs to rescues? They want to keep them away from the Animal Control.”
Animal Control made international headlines in 2011 when it euthanized an emaciated pit bull named Ace who had walked into a store, cowering and shaking, seemingly to ask for help. Many came forward to attempt to adopt Ace, and the courts got involved to save him, but as he had no owner, he was euthanized.