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Dog owner warns against Detroit Animal Control

Lauren Abdel-Razzaq
The Detroit News

Detroit — A Detroit woman is raising the alarm about unsanitary conditions at the Detroit Animal Control center after her dog was confined in a too-small cage without water and contracted deadly canine parvovirus after a 12-day stay at the facility.

Veronica Seward's 2-year-old dog Major died after he was quarantined in the Detroit Animal Control facility at 3511 West Jefferson .

"I don't want anyone to have to experience this," she said during a press conference Sunday in front of the facility. "If I can get a ticket for neglecting my dog, they should get a ticket for neglecting my dog."

The 90-lb, unaltered bull dog mix was quarantined at the center following a June 25 incident where he got out of the house near Eight Mile and Wyoming and bit a neighbor's child who was in the yard. He had not been vaccinated for rabies.

Originally, Major was released Tuesday after a 10-day hold, but police came back to Seward's house 18 hours later to quarantine him again, saying he was "part of an ongoing investigation" and his release had been a "clerical error," she said.

When Seward went to visit her dog on Thursday, he was acting unusual, she said.

"By the time I returned Friday at 2:45, Major was lethargic, he didn't want to drink water and blood was seeping out of the slanted kennel and into a drain," she said.

Seward shot a video on her phone as she was being escorted to see her dog. In the video, which has been uploaded to Youtube, she sees the blood coming from Major's kennel and she yells out at an officer, "He's bleeding. I have a problem. He needs immediate care."

Seward had contacted animal activist groups Dog Aide and CHAINED Inc. and was working with them to secure her home and get Major moved to another facility. At that point, she says, she contacted them for help finding a veterinarian, because the one at the center refused to provide care.

Twelve days after being quarantined in the facility, Major died.

Seward has two other dogs at home, and she says they have since been registered and vaccinated.

Melissa Miller, Director of Operations for Dog Aide, said there is a good chance other dogs in the facility could come down with canine parvovirus, which is highly contagious and passed through feces.

"Every day, DAC picks up dogs and we don't know if these dogs are vaccinated or not," she said. "Who knows how many other dogs may have stepped in waste or blood and become ill. We urge anyone with dogs in this facility to demand visitation because no one else there is going to advocate for your dog."

During the Sunday morning news conference, workers could be seen inside the Detroit Animal Control center. Once media crews arrived, they put up a "closed" sign, shut off the lights and did not answer the door. Calls to the center during business hours, which was open Sunday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., were not answered and messages could not be left.

On Monday, the Detroit Police Department, which oversees Detroit Animal Control, issued a statement, saying animal control staff and a veterinarian found no symptoms with Major during daily morning rounds on July 10.

"By the afternoon, the staff checked on the dog with the owner and determined he was ill," said Sgt. Cassandra Lewis. "Animal control contacted the veterinarian, who tested the dog for parvo and learned the dog tested positive."

Lewis said of the other 179 dogs at Animal Control as of Friday, "none had exhibited symptoms of parvo."

"As a precaution, animal control staff are closely monitoring each dog and will be testing all 179 dogs for the parvovirus," she said.

The Detroit Animal Control center is managed by Harry Ward and, according to reports filed with the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, has an about 74 percent kill rate. In 2014, the department took in 3,320 dogs and 1,803 cats, as well as other animals. Of those, 2,383 dogs and 1,244 cats were euthanized. The rest were returned to owners or transferred to registered shelters.

The center itself does not offer adoption.

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