At first, we didn't believe this new report from Bloomberg News could be true:
"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."
But it seems that number isn't so far-fetched.
-- NBC-TV's The Today Show on March 1, 2011: TV producer/animal advocate Monica Martino of Detroit Dog Rescue says "there are at least 50,000 [stray] dogs and experts out here have put that number closer to 100,000."
-- The Associated Press, in a March 9, 2012, YouTube video: "Detroit is facing a stray dog epidemic. Tens of thousands of strays roam the city's streets, byproducts of the city's crushing poverty."
-- Rolling Stone on March 20, 2012: "Estimates vary, but groups place the number of strays in the city at anywhere between 20,000 and 50,000."
Bloomberg's story has some startling passages:
-- "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."
-- "Strays have killed pets, bitten mail carriers and clogged the animal shelter, where more than 70 percent are euthanized. "
-- Four animal control officers "cover the 139-square-mile city." That's 11 fewer than in 2008.
-- "Pit bulls and breeds mixed with them dominate Detroit's stray population because of widespread dog fighting."
-- "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."
There isn't much the bankrupt city can do at this point, so private groups are trying to step in. According to The Oakland Press, the Detroit Area Rescue Team — which for years has focused on helping poor people — is teaming up with Detroit Dog Rescue "to provide stray dogs with supplies and eventually create a no kill animal shelter."
The city's dog problem is filtering into popular culture too. New York Times TV critic Alessandra Stanley notes that the new AMC TV series Low Winter Sun is set in a Detroit that "is a fetid no man's land that law-abiding citizens fled long ago, leaving whole blocks abandoned, houses boarded over and feral dogs roaming empty streets."
Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.