Dozens of dead dogs curled into fetal positions, covered with scars and lacerations, were found on Thursday by Greg Ostrander, who was walking through River Rouge Park in Detroit, along West Outer Drive between Plymouth Road and West Warren Avenue, on his way to the pharmacy.
Ostrander said he first found a dead dog with lacerations, curled up at tightly as possible for warmth, inside an abandoned kennel in the middle of Spinoza Drive. The dog was padlocked and chained to the kennel. About 20 feet away, Ostrander saw a dead Rottweiler.
At least 28 large dogs – mostly pit bulls and Mastiff mixes – were found when the snow started to thaw, Detroit Animal Welfare Group board member Nicole Litzelman told CBS Detroit.
“Because of the heavy snowfall in the month of January, a lot of these deceased bodies were discarded there because it was easier to cover them up. Also, it was an unusually cold month where a lot of dogs froze outside or were left to starve to death,” Litzelman said.
“This is just a small tip of the iceberg. Right now, since the snow is melting, I’m sure we’re going to find quite a few more bodies in the park,” she lamented.
Litzelman believes many of the dogs are innocent victims, thrown into bloody fighting pits and forced to fight for their lives – or, more often, to their deaths.
Dog fighters know they can’t just throw the corpses into the trash bins because some of the city trash collectors will report dead animals, she said, and also they don’t want to draw attention to the houses where they’re fighting the dogs illegally.
There’s also the reality that many of the dogs are not yet completely dead but need to be dumped because they are so badly wounded and suffering so severely that they must get rid of them as soon as possible.
Litzelman said the park has become a dumping ground for dogs killed in fights.
“A majority of them are due to illegal activities, such as fighting. It’s consistent with the bite wounds that are on the dogs. Most of them have either bled to death or have large gaping wounds that were never treated,” she said. “The park is well-known for dog fighting and has a high activity for drugs and other illegal activities.”
While some of the dogs were clearly involved in fighting activities, other appear to have been strays or worse – dropped off by families that at one time might have loved them.
The grisly discoveries prompted Ostrander and members of DAWG to search for the bodies of more deceased animals in the park, the Detroit News reports.
“It’s a famous dumping ground for dogs people don’t want any more,” Gary Ostrander told the Detroit News. “It’s just heart-wrenching.”
Ostrander said he also found six gored dogs littering the park, some of which were bloated and decomposing. A few months ago, he said he buried a Rottweiler that had been wrapped in a bloodied sheet and left in the park.
Before that, he said he found a pit bull “with its face all chewed up” and another bloody canine in a garbage can in the park.
“It’s just very sad and disturbing to see … It’s one of the biggest problems that we have right now in the city,” said Litzelman.
Some of the dogs in the park are clinging to life, and Litzelman said they are in even more danger.
“The park is about 1,200 acres and there’s so many animals running around down there,” she said. She added that DAWG had just been tipped off that there are people trying to feed the live dogs enough to lure them to where they can be caught and used as bait dogs.
To raise awareness of the growing problem, DAWG organized a walk-through at River Rouge Park, at noon on Saturday.
“We’re going to have quite a few volunteers come out there and meet us, bring garbage bags and try to clean up some of the park by removing the deceased bodies, trying to see if we can catch some live dogs by setting up traps, and hopefully try to thwart off some of the illegal dog fighting activities going on in the park,” she said.
“The city is cash-strapped and is having issues as far as police coverage and animal control coverage so somebody has got to try to take ahold of the problem and do something.”
DAWG’s website is http://www.dawghous.com/ if anyone wants to help or donate to their effort.
REWARD FOR INFORMATION LEADING TO ARREST AND CONVICTION
Up to a $5,000 reward is offered by The Humane Society of the United States for information leading to the arrest and conviction of any person involved in illegal animal fighting. Call 877-TIP-HSUS (877-847-4787). Callers’ identities are protected.