A stray dog the Detroit Dog Rescue has been trying to catch is spotted in an alley Thursday, March 3, 2011 in the area on Rosa Park Blvd and Warren Ave. in Detroit. They want to catch the dog soon because they fear the collar someone must have put on the dog when it was younger is now gowing to tight around its neck. (Photo by Bryan Mitchell/Special to The Detroit News) (Bryan Mitchell / Special to Detroit News)
Detroit — Fewer than 3,000 stray dogs roam the streets on any given day in Detroit, according to survey results released Monday, contradicting a prior estimate that 50,000 canines were loose.
The World Animal Awareness Society said its findings — the culmination of a three-year pilot project — debunk the image that tens of thousands of stray dogs exist.
“We’re hoping to put to bed once and for all that headline that states there are 50,000 stray dogs or more on the streets of Detroit,” society Executive Director Tom McPhee said during an online news conference.
The survey was also not intended to track stray cats, but McPhee said field workers easily observed 10 to 20 times more cats outside on any given day than dogs.
McPhee said of the roughly 3,000 dogs, there are less than 10 packs of three or more dogs that can be considered wild or feral strays.
When the initial findings of the “American Strays Project” are refined, the true number of loose dogs will likely be under 1,000 on any given day, he added.
The project will provide the foundation for an annual count of the city’s dog population.
Regardless of the number of dogs, McPhee said the real issue is the poor ownership practices within the community.
“The problems lie in education,” he said.
Detroit Dog Rescue co-founder Daniel “Hush” Carlisle said the city’s public affairs office provided him with the 50,000 figure several years ago while he was developing a series with the Discovery Channel about Detroit’s stray dog problem.
Carlisle, who was not involved in the World Animal Awareness Society survey, said it’s the first attempt he’s aware of to assess the problem. Canines are difficult to track among the city’s nearly 80,000 vacant structures and houses.
“How do you account for that?” said Carlisle, whose organization works with an animal fostering network and several hundred volunteers.
Carlisle said he sees value in the project if it incorporates a mechanism to get the dogs off the streets.
“Whatever the number may be, whether it’s 50 or 50,000, it’s still a problem,” he said.
“They need to factor that in, a model that will get them a home, too.”
The society’s survey teams set out on Sept. 21-22 with tracking software to compile data in 23 of 42 regions they defined in the city, using photos and video to document “free-roaming” dogs that were not confined to owners’ properties.
Findings were recorded via a GPS tracking app from 1,150 sampling sites out of a possible 2,100 identified for the survey, McPhee said.
The survey teams, when possible, also sought to identify location, ownership status, collar, tags and physical condition.
Detroit’s count served as the national template for the project that’s expected to be launched this year in 19 other large cities.
The initial phase of the project cost $250,000. So far, organizers have spent $175,000 of the funds that include grants, fundraising, and private and foundation donors, including the Michigan Humane Society, which has kicked in $70,000.