Finley: Detroit must rid itself of killer dogs

Nolan Finley
The Detroit News

Read this sentence slowly: A 9-year-old girl was pulled from her bicycle and ripped to shreds by a pack of vicious dogs in southwest Detroit.

Those words should make you recoil in horror. Thinking about the terror and pain young Emma Hernandez endured in the final moments of her life should make it hard for us to eat today, let alone sleep. The entire community should be in tears. 

And it should be acting. We should never think it's normal that children are stalked and killed by wild animals on the streets of an American city, in the streets of our city.

Relatives say they are raising money for a funeral for Emma Hernandez, who was killed Monday.

This is disgraceful, and unacceptable. Emma's death warrants much more shock and outrage than it's receiving.

If we can shrug and go on this time, if her death becomes a one-day story, if nothing is done to make sure our children are safe from killer dogs, then we can't call ourselves a civilized city.

Mayor Mike Duggan, police Chief James Craig, the City Council — hell, even Gov. Gretchen Whitmer — should be in that alley where Emma was killed declaring "Never again!"

But they aren't. Because we accept their inaction.

If this were the first time it's happened, perhaps the indifference would be excusable. It wasn't. In 2015, 4-year-old Xavier Strickland was pulled away from his mother while they were walking on Bayliss Street in Detroit, and dragged under a fence by four pit bulls. 

"They just ate him," his mother told police.

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That stomach-turning description should have been enough to assure that Emma didn't die in the same manner.

It should have prompted a sweep of the entire city to round up and destroy every dangerous dog. It should have resulted in an iron-clad policy that every neighborhood complaint about a vicious animal receives an immediate response. It should have made animal control a fully-staffed, 24-hour-a-day operation.

But in Detroit, there apparently are bigger priorities than protecting children from being eaten alive.

That pit bulls are the dog breed of choice in Detroit speaks volumes about the city's mindset. Yes, I know, they can be cuddly and loving pets. 

They are also bred for illegal dog fighting, increasing their potential to be a public threat. 

Varieties of pit bulls fill three-quarters of the Animal Control cages in Detroit, a city that records more than 800 dog bites a year. 

Just 15% of Detroit's estimated 50,000 dogs are registered. The deaths of Xavier and Emma should spur an enforcement effort that is backed by stiff penalties with the goal of registering every dog.

Owners must be held to account. Neighbors say the pit bulls that attacked Emma had frequently been seen freely roaming the neighborhood. Owners who allow their dogs to terrorize a community should lose the animals.

The owner of the dogs that killed Emma is as culpable in her death as if he had torn her apart himself. His dogs were a deadly weapon, and he failed to secure them. He should be looking at murder charges.

In two weeks, school will resume in Detroit, and children will be filling the sidewalks. They should not have to walk in fear of being chased down and killed by dogs. 

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