Detroit may be on its way to becoming a ghost town, but the disappearance of homo sapiens from the streets just means the largest US bankrupt city is about to have a new master – man’s formerly best friend, in the form of tens of thousands of stray dogs most of which happen to be a particularly vicious breed of pit bulls. Step aside Motown, and say hello to Dogtown.
Bloomberg reports that as many as 50,000 stray dogs roam the streets and vacant homes of bankrupt Detroit, replacing residents, menacing humans who remain and overwhelming the city’s ability to find them homes or peaceful deaths. Dogs which are becoming ever hungrier, and ever less domesticated. “Dens of as many as 20 canines have been found in boarded-up homes in the community of about 700,000 that once pulsed with 1.8 million people. One officer in the Police Department’s skeleton animal-control unit recalled a pack splashing away in a basement that flooded when thieves ripped out water pipes. “The dogs were having a pool party,” said Lapez Moore, 30.” Well at least someone is having a party.
With everyone concerned about zombies roaming the streets in the Post-New Normal, it appears everyone forgot about the dogs. And especially the “Highland Park Red” pitbull.
Poverty roils the Motor City and many dogs have been left to fend for themselves, abandoned by owners who are financially stressed or unaware of proper care. Strays have killed pets, bitten mail carriers and clogged the animal shelter, where more than 70 percent are euthanized.
“With these large open expanses with vacant homes, it’s as if you designed a situation that causes dog problems,” said Harry Ward, head of animal control.
Pit bulls and breeds mixed with them dominate Detroit’s stray population because of widespread dog fighting, said Ward. Males are aggressive in mating, so they proliferate, he added.
One type of fighting pit bull has become known as far as Los Angeles as the “Highland Park red,” named after a city within Detroit’s borders, Ward said.
Their prevalence was clear as Ward and officers Moore and Malachi Jackson answered calls Aug. 19. On a block where vacant houses and lots outnumbered occupied ones, they found four dogs in an abandoned house — a male and three females, including a pregnant pit bull with a prized blue-gray coat.
For now the biggest casualty of the dog infestation is the long-suffering, and longer-insolvent, USPS.
Aggressive dogs force the U.S. Postal Service to temporarily halt mail delivery in some neighborhoods, said Ed Moore, a Detroit-area spokesman. He said there were 25 reports of mail carriers bitten by dogs in Detroit from October through July. Though most are by pets at homes, strays have also attacked, Moore said.
“It’s been a persistent problem,” he said.
Mail carrier Catherine Guzik told of using pepper spray on swarms of tiny, ferocious dogs in a southwest Detroit neighborhood.
“It’s like Chihuahuaville,” Guzik said as she walked her route.
At two nearby homes, one pet dog was killed recently and another injured by two stray pit bulls that jumped fences into yards, said neighbor Debora Mattie, 49.
Four months ago, a woman sitting on her porch on the east side was attacked by two strays that tore off her scalp, Ward said.
“We got those dogs,” he said. “It’s a big difference to that lady that those dogs were gone that day.”
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Last year, there were 903 dog bites in Detroit, according to Ward, adding that most go unreported to police. He said 90 percent are by dogs whose owners are known.
That was before the rabies spread.
Summarizing the surreal reality of Dog Town best is Kristen Huston, who leads the Detroit office of All About Animals Rescue, a non-profit that obtained the Humane Society’s $50,000 grant last year to feed, vaccinate and sterilize pets.
“Technically, it’s illegal to let a dog roam, but with the city being bankrupt, who’s going to do anything about it?”
The good news: for now the strays are dogs. How long before humans are forced to hunt other humans, some of them rabid, vicious killers, roaming the streets of whatever the latest and greatest municipal bankrupt casualty is?