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Detroit — Mayor Mike Duggan on Thursday defended the controversial hiring of the city's new animal control leader amid scrutiny over his past record.

Mark Kumpf started Monday as director of Detroit's Animal Care and Control. But some animal advocates have pointed to news reports that show Kumpf was terminated from his most recent position as director of the Animal Resource Center in Montgomery County, Ohio. 

"I don't believe in character assassination," Duggan said in response to a concern raised at a Thursday night citywide community meeting at City Hall. "He is going to be judged and I am satisfied with his experience and his review. A lot of that stuff is exaggerated."

Kumpf was selected for the $100,000-per-year position following a national search to fill the job, which had been vacant since spring after the city's last director, Charles Brown, resigned. City officials have said Kumpf has more than 30 years of experience. 

Kumpf's firing in Ohio, according to reports by the Dayton Daily News, came amid criticism from animal rights advocates over high euthanasia rates and a critical report from independent consultants, Team Shelter USA.

Earlier this week, Theresa Sumpter, director of the Detroit Pit Crew Dog Rescue, accused the city of "scraping from the bottom of the barrel" in selecting Krumpf.

“I was extremely surprised that this would be the candidate that the city of Detroit would pick especially in the wake of the Emma Hernandez mauling and subsequent death," she said.

Emma, 9, was attacked last month by three pit bulls as she rode her bicycle in an alley in her southwest Detroit neighborhood. The death prompted outrage over the lack of leadership in the city's animal control office and an urgency for Detroit's City Council to strengthen the city's dangerous animal laws. 

Sumpter said she's concerned about reports of Kumpf being a part of a civil lawsuit in a dog mauling case from 2014. The suit claims the victim, a Dayton woman, had notified the rescue center multiple times of a problematic dog next door.

Montgomery County declined this week to comment on the terms of Kumpf's separation from his employment there. Kumpf has not yet been made available for an interview. 

Meanwhile, other groups, including Detroit Dog Rescue and the Michigan Humane Society were optimistic about what Kumpf could offer Detroit and said they're eager to give him an opportunity.

"I want to set him up for success,” Kristina Millman-Rinaldi, DDR's executive director told The News this week. “I want to be an ally for anybody that wants to help Detroit and wants to help the animals."

Duggan added Thursday night that he was "really pleased" with the humane society and rescue group leaders who sat down with Kumpf this week. 

"They based their judgment on the interaction, not based on character assassination without meeting him," he told the crowd. 

Duggan said a number of animal control changes are being made in Detroit and Kumpf is "one piece of the solution."

"In the next couple of weeks, we're going to roll out a whole number of steps we'll be taking," he said.

Duggan said part of the plan for the city's dangerous animal problem would be to have inspectors in each city council district.  

"We do have a problem in this city and we’re going to hit it hard," he said.

Meanwhile, a petition calling for Kumpf's removal as the director had more than 10,000 signatures by Thursday evening. 

cferretti@detroitnews.com 

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