Michigan Humane Society

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A Note About Strays in Detroit


Staff with dog

Relative to the conversation and misinformation currently centered on stray animals in the city of Detroit, we feel it is important to clarify a few key issues. It is the primary responsibility of the designated public authority, in this instance Detroit Animal Control (DAC), to be the central care facility for stray animals in Detroit so as to maximize the opportunity for reunion with their owners. However given the current situation and conditions at DAC, MHS takes in between 5,000 – 6,000 strays each year to maximize the care they receive. This takes the form of strays surrendered to us at our Detroit facility as well as those strays that are brought to us through our animal cruelty investigation and emergency rescue teams. There are instances in which we legally cannot take strays – this includes bite cases which are highly regulated. By statute, animals who have bitten must be held and quarantined by the designated municipal agency – again, this is the law. This was the case with an animal that was brought to MHS last week. The only instances in which we take in bite cases for quarantine are when we are the designated public authority through a contract – which is the case with several local municipalities in western Wayne County (this is not the case in Detroit currently).

Furthermore, MHS’ animal cruelty investigators and emergency rescue personnel are focused on animals that are sick, injured or in immediate danger – responding to roughly 10,000 calls for service each year. However, we do not respond to free roaming strays as that is the responsibility, and the statutory requirement, of DAC. Ideally stray animals would be taken to one designated facility – where owners have a centralized location to locate lost pets, and community partners (organizations like MHS and other rescue groups) can work to place animals. MHS takes thousands of Detroit strays every year and has for many decades. We cannot replace the function and responsibilities of DAC, but rather must work collectively to make it a well-functioning part of a healthy pet community. A non-profit animal welfare organization’s charge is to enhance and supplement the tax-funded, mandated services of a publicly designated authority, not to replace them. This is why we have worked so diligently to have DAC open its doors to other groups to save lives.

If the statutory responsibilities of DAC cannot be met, then we, as an animal welfare community, have every right to be angered and frustrated. That said, it does not change where the responsibility lies – with the designated public authority. As partners in animal welfare, whose vision is for a better community, we cannot accept the current model of animal welfare in Detroit. The status quo is not good enough. However, working cohesively in our roles, we can save more lives.

The Michigan Humane Society has, for the past three years, engaged the City of Detroit in extensive discussions to assume the responsibility and, more importantly, the statutory authority to act on their behalf as the centralized stray housing authority in the City of Detroit.

Our resources are dedicated to placing animals and saving lives, and we do that, organization-wide, to the tune of more than 11,000 animals in the past 12 months. In addition to direct care, we have extensive preventative programs and community resources positively impacting animal welfare in Detroit and throughout Michigan.

Both from a public safety and an animal welfare standpoint, the statutory responsibility and authority for animals at large is with Detroit Animal Control. We are willing to continue discussions regarding their authority to house the animals and, under that agreement, they can be more capable to meet their animal control obligations. An animal control shelter is defined by state law as “a facility operated by a municipality for the impoundment and care of animals that are found in the streets or at large, animals that are otherwise held due to the violation of a municipal ordinance or state law, or animals that are surrendered to the animal control shelter.” The City of Detroit can, however, enter into an agreement with an animal protection shelter, as Michigan Humane Society is defined, to assume that responsibility.

Our goal is singular – to save lives.


2 thoughts on “A Note About Strays in Detroit

  1. Thank you for your quick response. Saying that it’s OK to leave the DAC ultimately responsible for strays is not acceptable. While I understand that they are tax funded, and that MHS has many other responsibilities to the surrounding communities, the animal welfare situation at the DAC should take precedent at this time. Until we can resolve the problem, or rescue all of the Detroit animals from that facility it should be considered an emergent situation. We should not be turning any animal away to end up at the DAC to face a most certain death. I love you guys and what you do and what you believe but right now, more than ever, we all need to walk the walk. I have a foster, Toby, who was rescued out of there (DAC) on Thursday, November 5, 2015. We have to recognize that no animal is safe there and that we cannot use the normal rules until they start using the “normal” rules. Not the inhumane ways that rule the DAC currently. I know you care. Right now we need to care beyond our normal capacity….until every animal is safe none of us can say we are saving lives. Because we are losing every life you send there. Thanks for your efforts in getting them out but I appeal to your innate sense of right and wrong. The MHS simply cannot send animals there and say it’s motto is ‘to save lives’.
    Mary Arens


  2. Amen Mary. How can you profess to care for the animals first with such atrocities occuring at the hands of Harry Ward and his staff and being endorsed by the City of Detroit? You should have stood up long ago, you have the power to do it, instead of leaving this fight to a few individual citizens. Truthfully, I am appalled. Doesn’t matter where your money does or doesn’t come from, your first responsibility should be the safety and welfare of the animals. You sit by every day knowing they are dying there, and they keep taking them in, and then make a statement justifying why? Just sad.


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