Stray dogs in a near-empty Detroit neighborhood. (Elizabeth Conley / The Detroit News, file)
Don’t look now, but another estimate has emerged about the number of stray dogs in Detroit.
This one is from a Michigan State University researcher who’s been studying the city’s animal welfare issue for more than a year.
In the first academic study of a Detroit problem that made headlines around the world, MSU political science professor Laura Reese pegs the number of city strays at 7,500 dogs and 18,000 cats.
She crunched the figures after getting 75 responses from more than 300 nonprofit animal welfare agencies surveyed across Metro Detroit.
That would mean in the 139 square miles of Detroit, there are about 54 stray dogs and 129 stray cats per square mile.
Asked how often he sees stray dogs and cats, Detroit mayoral spokesman John Roach said, “Occasionally, but not frequently.”
Previous estimates of stray dogs roaming Detroit have ranged from 3,000 to 50,000.
But, the magnitude of the problem is not really what matters, Reese said.
What’s important is tackling it, along with other animal welfare issues.
“It’s a sign of disorder in the community,” Reese said.
“For the city and its residents to move forward and get out of the current crisis, we need to get out of these disorder issues, whether it’s abandoned buildings or roaming animals. Psychologically, it does not help the city move forward.”
In a city facing bankruptcy, Reese knows there are few resources to invest in the problem. That’s why she suggested the city partner with the network of nonprofit animal rights groups to get a better handle on the problem.
Her study says Detroit needs to do a better job of taking care of stray animals. Public education also is needed, because tethered dogs have been found frozen to death in backyards.
Detroit Police Department spokesman Sgt. Michael Woody said the city’s animal control division has nine employees: four animal control officers, three supervising officers who monitor the building and handle the animals, one veterinarian and one investigator.
Woody said the department was never operating at full capacity and has the money to hire more staff. He says 10 animal control officers will be hired next month and that, over the next three months, the department should get an additional four investigators.
“Last year, we had 703 dog bites and we had one investigator doing all that work,” Woody said. “The upswing to all of this is we are recognizing the need for the additional manpower in that area.”
Staff Writer Lauren Abdel-Razzaq contributed.