Dog Fighting in Detroit: 50,000 Stray Dogs, Mostly Pit Bulls, Roam City; Is there a Connection?

| by Denise A Justin
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On August 22, Bloomberg News headlines announced that the number of stray dogs, mainly Pit Bulls, roaming the blighted streets of Detroit is now estimated to be 50,000.

This is not a sudden development, but it is one that was ignored until bankruptcy filings by the city of Detroit finally forced authorities to look at the problem of dog packs that roam the streets, threatening residents, killing pets and each other, and stopping mail delivery to entire neighborhoods.

As the decreasing human population has mirrored the slumping economy, Detroit has declined from approximately 1.8 million to 700,000 residents, many of whom have been unemployed for years, with the major desecration of the city—and abandonment of pets--occurring since 2008.

As people left, they often left their dogs behind—few of them altered—and those that survived have reproduced freely—Pit Bulls having been by far the pet of choice.

Now there is a crisis that some say is exaggerated. However, no one disputes that thousands of stray dogs—mainly Pit Bulls—are totally overwhelming animal control’s meager resources.

But not all of the dogs are strays. Some people just let their dogs roam; and others—often homeless--keep dogs to protect any area in which they live and often where criminal activities take place, says Harry Ward, head of Detroit animal control.

What is not being as vigorously discussed is that, in the midst of all the poverty and decay, dog fighting is thriving according to reports.

In order to train their Pit Bulls to win, dog fighters often bring in a female in heat and place her in one of the abandoned buildings, where she will attract unaltered males from the street. From these, dog fighters can select those dogs they will use for “bait,”--a dog strong enough to offer a challenge without damaging the fighter-in-training. The bait dog ends up either severely injured and back on the street, or dead.

Ward states, "With these large open expanses with vacant homes, it's as if you designed a situation that causes dog problems.”

Ward told Bloomberg News that he now only has a budget of $1.6 million a year (compared to $20,000 for Los Angeles.) In 2008 he had 17 or 18 animal control officers and 4 cruelty investigators providing services. He is now down to 4 officers and one humane investigator.

Sadly, abandoned dogs and strays have clogged the animal shelter, where more than 70 percent are euthanized, according to officials, with almost 100% of pit bulls euthanized because they are not reclaimed or adopted.

Packs of to 20 dogs have been found making dens in boarded-up homes.

Daniel "Hush" Carlisle, co-founder and executive director of Detroit Dog Rescue, told USA Today he believes the 50,000 number is about right, although he's working with outside organizations to apply industry standards for a precise estimate.

"I know for a fact that there's thousands," he said. "I don't care if there's 50 or 50,000, there's definitely a problem," he told USA Today.

Fox 2 News reporter Charlie Langston’s investigative interview disclosed that, in a Detroit dog fighting ring bust two years ago by Michigan Humane Society—in the midst of Detroit’s decline--one dog was fought for a $250,000 purse. Another dog fighter admitted that he makes $30,000 a year just from breeding his dogs.

Officials stated at that time that many of the abandoned buildings in Detroit were used for holding dog fights or to house the animals.

The following videos reveal the ugly result today of a City in which animals have been the victim of high-stakes crime for years.

Sources: Chicago Tribune, USA Today

[1] Abandoned Dogs Roam Detroit in Packs as Humans Dwindle -