Michigan Humane Society

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A Note from Matthew Pepper: Animal Cruelty Must Be Taken Seriously

Pet Golden Retriever And Owner Playing Outside Together

You may have seen the recent news regarding two high school students from Grosse Isle High School facing felony animal cruelty charges for slitting the throat of, and then beating a guinea pig with a bat.

In response to the charges, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy stated that, “The alleged facts in this case illustrate much more than a youthful prank or a pre-game antic. We must take these cases seriously.”

We walk the line of not wanting the lives of two young men to be ruined permanently because of “one mistake.” It was clearly a horrible mistake, and whether poor judgment or intentional malice, one that we all need to take seriously. The suffering put upon this animal was inexcusable, and there is an unquestionable correlation between animal cruelty and human violence. It cannot be ignored.

If you would like to learn more about the link between human violence and animal cruelty:
National Link Coalition
National Sheriff’s Association
Animal Legal Defense Fund

What can we take away from this incredibly horrific act?

There is much work to be done. We know that we need to instill compassion for all living creatures – to a level that the thought of torturing an animal for any purpose is unthinkable. We all share the responsibility to speak out against animal cruelty and neglect. We all must be their voice. Humane education and teaching empathy for the animals we share our lives with has been a focal point of the Michigan Humane Society for decades. As we look toward the future, it is critical that these programs become even more robust and impactful.

We must also continue to build upon a basic understanding among law enforcement and government officials of the correlation between animal cruelty and human violence. Prosecutor Worthy’s comments are spot-on. Unfortunately, that level of understanding is not as widespread as we would all want it to be. This is not by intent or ignorance. Law enforcement is overwhelmed with their responsibilities under normal circumstances and, given the current climate in America, it is understandable that they could see these issues as less important.

In reality, animal cruelty is linked to serious violent behavior in our communities, and is a clear indicator of other criminal activity. Whether two-legged or four, victims are victims, and violence is violence. In response to this need, MHS provides a professional training to law enforcement that has been approved by the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement.

MHS sincerely hopes that this incredibly heartbreaking incident acts as a catalyst to change. We know that it happened – now, as a community, it is our collective responsibility to stop it from happening again. Regardless of whether animal welfare is an issue close to your heart, individuals who intentionally cause the suffering of any living creature pose a threat to your safety and to your quality of life.

– Matthew Pepper, President and CEO



A Statement Against Breed Specific Legislation


This photo of Diggy with his new adopter started controversy about whether or not Diggy is a “pit bull.” Pit bulls are banned in Waterford Township, the city he now lives in.

Recently, the story of Diggy, an adopted dog, has been in the news due to questions about his breed and the city in which his owner resides, Waterford Township, having restrictions on specific breeds of dogs in their community. The Michigan Humane Society strongly opposes Waterford Township’s stance in supporting breed bans and asks that Diggy be able to remain with his new, adoptive family.

Michigan defines, under MCLA 287.321, a “Dangerous animal” as “a dog or other animal that bites or attacks a person, or a dog that bites or attacks and causes serious injury or death to another dog while the other dog is on the property or under the control of its owner.” Diggy has not engaged in any of these behaviors. He has done nothing but become part of a family.

The public argument now is whether Diggy is an American Bulldog or a pit bull/pit bull mix. That in and of itself is controversial, as a pit bull is not a widely recognized individual breed, and it would depend on where you based the definition. However, the larger issue is this: it shouldn’t matter.

The spirit behind Waterford Township’s pit bull ban is noble: create a safer environment. It is, however, a misguided effort. Breed bans have proven to be, at minimum, ineffective and more appropriately, a misallocation of public resources and trust.

Our position on breed specific legislation is not unique. The ASPCA, The HSUS and the American Veterinary Medical Association all hold similar positions.

Having an officer with the Waterford Township Police allocate time, in response to a situation where a family pet was being nothing more than a family pet is irresponsible and a reaction to misguided perceptions about animal behavior and temperament.

Painting a breed with a broad brush may seem like a viable solution, but it does not address the core issue. While genetics certainly plays a significant role in any dog’s personality, who that dog becomes is influenced primarily by their owner and their environment.

If Waterford Township wanted to truly impact public safety, they would discard the notion of a breed specific ban and focus on real issues involving companion animals and public safety. Officers should be looking at cases of cruelty and neglect (regardless of the breed). Not only is animal cruelty strongly correlated to acts of violence directed at people, but the animals subjected to long-term abuse or neglect often are not appropriately socialized and may develop behavioral characteristics that make them potentially dangerous. In addition, officers must aggressively enforce existing laws, such as those concerning dogs running at large, for example. The fact that a dog is a pit bull is not a problem; however, a pit bull running loose in the streets is a problem, just as it would be a problem if the dog were a Labrador or a golden retriever. It is the actions of the owner that should be held accountable.

The Michigan Humane Society strongly opposes Waterford Township’s breed specific ordinance. It is ineffective, misguided and serves no true purpose other than to perpetuate myths.

The Michigan Humane Society stands firmly behind Dan Tillery and Diggy and would condemn any action to remove him from his loving home absent any violations of existing State law governing dangerous animals.

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Don’t Eliminate Animal Control

Earlier this year, we saw Grand Traverse County remove their two animal control officers from the budget, effectively eliminating animal control from the county. Now, Montcalm County finds itself considering the same course of action.

Elected officials and government leadership have difficult jobs; I know firsthand, having spent a majority of my career within municipal animal care and control departments. These departments are often asked to do what seems like the impossible by balancing services with limited funding. Animal care and control departments and their associated personnel are often seen as low-hanging fruit when it comes to budget cuts. They are, therefore, often the first to get hit when challenging financial times present themselves.

Eliminating or dramatically cutting municipal animal care and control departments is extremely short-sighted and potentially permanently damaging to the health and well-being of the community.

Animal care and control plays a vital role in both public safety and the overall quality of life for each and every community in Michigan.

In the absence of trained, compassionate personnel tasked with responding to animal-related issues in a community, the responsibility will most likely fall to local law enforcement and/or will be taken on independently by citizen volunteers. Neither provides the appropriate level of protection to either the citizens or animals of our communities. Local law enforcement is often not trained in handling or dealing with animals in the field, nor trained to recognize animal cruelty and its subsequent correlation to human violence – a focus point of the Michigan Humane Society’s Law Enforcement Training Program.


While highly compassionate, trained and committed volunteers are the lifeblood of organizations such as MHS, they should not be expected or positioned to take on a municipal, tax-payer funded responsibility. This most often leads to untrained individuals, with little or no oversight, acting in a public safety capacity. Even highly trained law enforcement officers often lack the specific training and expertise needed to handle animal-related issues in an effective, efficient and humane manner.  This is in no way to be seen as a slight on law enforcement or volunteers – they are doing what they need to do to be a resource to their community, but they are simply not properly equipped to do so.

Furthermore, when the number of animals who need care increases due to the lack of an animal control officers and resources, these animals often end up at local animal welfare organizations – nonprofits whose resources are already severely strained.  A community is most effective in caring for their animals when private animal welfare organizations, volunteers, law enforcement personnel, and the local animal control officers are each able to provide their specific services to the community.

Additionally, animal control officers are specifically trained to handle animals in a public safety capacity, and in cases of cruelty. They are uniquely trained in handling animal-related disease issues. For example, animal control officers know the rabies protocols and quarantine procedures designed to keep you safe. Keep in mind that, while uncommon in modern times, rabies still exists and is 100% fatal if not appropriately addressed. Furthermore, animal control officers are trained to address the suffering in neglect and cruelty cases – suffering that would continue to exist if the responsibility fell to those without the training or the authority to address it. The spread of infectious disease and animal victims of violence are, unfortunately, common concerns throughout Michigan, and communities must invest in the resources to appropriately address these situations.


Cutting the programs that protect us from animal-related injury and disease and provide appropriate protection to the community’s animals is a shortsighted solution to the financial issues facing many communities in Michigan. Is there an easy solution? No, there is not. That said, the ramifications of eliminating animal control functions from our communities often reach much farther than one might expect. If we are to provide our communities with appropriate protection, needed public safety, and protection for the animals our citizens clearly care deeply about, we must invest in our animal care and control departments and ensure that they have the tools necessary to be successful.


Matthew Pepper
President and CEO
Michigan Humane Society

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A Note from Matthew Pepper on Animal Surrender


We aim to keep happy families like these together for a lifetime.

Surrendering an animal is hard.

It should be hard. A pet is a commitment and not one to be taken lightly. It can be easy to vilify someone who surrenders an animal.

While it is true that there are people who, frankly, should not own animals and do not value them as companions, many people who come to the Michigan Humane Society to surrender an animal are good, compassionate people in bad situations. Often, I would say it is one of the highest forms of compassion to admit a beloved pet is better served by living with another family.

At the Michigan Humane Society, our intake lobby, more appropriately titled our “second chances center”, is not a place of lost hope, but rather the pathway to various important programs we collectively call “keeping families together” and an introduction to our incredible placement programs.

Let’s start with the process.

When someone makes the difficult decision to surrender an animal to MHS, we schedule an appointment for them. In the time between the call and the appointment, our “keeping families together” programs are mobilized. An MHS representative will contact that person and dig deeper into the situation.

Not “do you want to surrender your pet?” but rather “why are you surrendering your pet?”

Perhaps the person has lost their job, a very real issue in Detroit in recent years, and cannot afford to feed their pet.

Thanks to our generous supporters, community members and our friends at Purina, MHS has a pet food bank for families in need. We can help you.

Perhaps there are behavioral issues the owner feels unable to correct.

MHS has experts in animal behavior that can talk you through various issues. We can help you.

Perhaps there is something medically wrong with your pet, and you don’t know where to turn.

MHS operates three veterinary centers adjacent to our three animal shelters. We have incredibly skilled and compassionate veterinarians. We can help you.

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Affordable, accessible veterinary care helps family pets stay in their homes.

“Keeping families together” is core to who we are. A true community animal welfare organization does not just function within the walls of a shelter – it functions as part of a community. Keeping animals OUT of even the most advanced shelters and in good, loving homes is just as important as the work we do caring for the animals in our facilities.

Surrendering a pet should, without exception, be a last resort. MHS is not intended to be an organization of convenience. With that said, there are instances for which keeping the pet is not an option. We no longer should view that as the end of the story, but rather the opening of a new chapter.

MHS has an incredible team that provides model care for animals at all of our facilities; from diet, to veterinary care, to socialization, the list goes on. From there, healthy and treatable animals fall into our various placement programs. In 2015, MHS placed more than 11,100 animals. In 2016, we are on pace to place even more and, so far this year, every healthy AND every treatable animal has found a new home!

One might read this and be concerned that I am encouraging people to surrender their animals. This could not be further from the truth. What I am saying is that MHS, and most shelters across the country, have become incredible community resources that are filled with compassionate professionals, hope, and well-managed programs to help address the complex needs of our diverse communities. MHS is committed to “keeping families together” above all and, at our core, we are a place of hope and second chances and a vital resource to the citizens, both two- and four-legged, we serve.


A Note from Matthew Pepper on “Vigilante Animal Rescue”


I have spent my entire professional career in animal welfare, but I haven’t always been behind a desk.

For more than a decade, my focus was fieldwork – primarily animal cruelty investigations and public safety-related activities. I served as an animal cruelty investigator/field supervisor for several years, and then moved on to positions in animal control as an officer, supervisor and director.

Fighting animal cruelty has always been my passion. I have personally seen the worst things that people are capable of doing to an animal, as well as the best of humanity when hope, love and a second chance are given to the victims of cruelty and neglect.

Recently, I found myself chatting with filmmaker Tom McPhee. Our conversation gravitated to Hurricane Katrina – and the devastating aftermath to which we both responded, but in different capacities. I was there to assist the Humane Society of Louisiana, and he was there to document the events as they unfolded. It was truly a life-changing experience, and in many ways, it was also career affirming – this was what I was meant to do.

There was such an overwhelming need during Hurricane Katrina, and the subsequent emergency response to that need was incredible. People left their jobs, homes and families, for weeks and even months, risking their health and safety, all for the cause – to make a difference, to save animal lives. It was almost as if the relatively small, close-knit family that was animal welfare grew tenfold overnight.

In a disaster situation, there is so much adrenaline, and so much immediate need, that you find yourself jumping from one thing to another before you even have time to think much about it. Every minute of every day is an emergency. There is constant need, energy and direction.

But where did that energy go when it was time to turn home?


In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the world of animal welfare saw an explosion of volunteer organizations striving to keep that energy alive in their own communities. Small volunteer-based organizations, once practically non-existent, became commonplace. This incredible influx of passion and energy was great for animal welfare, but was not without its significant challenges. The field of animal welfare is emotionally exhausting, physically demanding, and requires both the passion in our hearts as well as discipline in our heads. As these organizations began to appear in our communities, we gradually saw a divergence into two categories: those that evolved into professional organizations, and those that went down the path of “vigilante animal rescue”.

Oftentimes, perception is confused with reality, and it is no different in animal welfare. The problem is that the general public perceives all animal welfare groups to be the same – yet we are not. Furthermore, social media has blurred the lines between appropriate and inappropriate animal rescue – and quite frankly, between legal and illegal. It is easy to read a Facebook post about an organization that takes an animal from a backyard, perhaps because they believed another was not taking action, and consider those actions heroic. However, we must consider the moral and legal foundation that decision was based upon and its subsequent impact on all of animal welfare.

Across the country and right here in Michigan, you have many organizations taking possession of animals that they perceive are in need, when they do not have the proper authority or training to do so. When these unauthorized, untrained groups illegally seize animals, problems can quickly arise. And sometimes, all it takes for an animal to be provided proper care is having a straightforward conversation with the owner, perhaps providing them with some resources and making sure they understand the seriousness of their pet’s conditions. When an animal is simply removed from the owner in an unlawful way, this does nothing for the next dog that owner will have.

Furthermore, some groups fail to complete the legal process when they seize an animal and, as part of that, fail to rule out potential medical causes or external factors that would be paramount in any sound criminal case. This creates several significant problems. The act itself is likely against the law, but most concerning is that acting in this way could discredit any case against an identified owner. This would provide potential animal abusers the opportunity to return to their ways and put their current, and future, animals at risk. Finally, when a group acts illegally, it puts them in danger of not being able to continue their much-needed work. Acting illegally opens doors for loss of authority, credibility and trust. It leaves the group with little respect and the potential for legal ramifications that could prevent them from continuing to save animal lives.

At the Michigan Humane Society, our animal cruelty investigators are extensively and professionally trained in investigating animal cruelty. They are bound by our mission and their profession to always act in the best interest of the animals while also acting within the law. This can at times, however, create a misunderstanding for those who, like MHS, are deeply passionate about animals.


Here is an example: A dog is being kept outdoors and on a chain. Let’s put aside, for the sake of discussion, our opinions and how anyone could believe that this is a compassionate and appropriate way to care for an animal. Legally, outside of extenuating circumstances, if the dog is provided proper shelter, food and water and appears in good health and weight, the animal cannot simply be taken just because it is being kept outdoors; even if the dog is not provided these basic essentials, in the absence of immediate danger to the animal, it still cannot simply be removed absent due process. What can be done, then, if an animal has less than proper, legally-required provisions? We take this opportunity to educate the owner, leave notifications, provide additional provisions for the animal (food, straw, a doghouse) and schedule check-back visits to ensure that proper care, as dictated by law, is provided. At its core our investigators are trained to educate first and enforce second. If improper care persists, our cruelty investigators then have the authority, as dictated by the City of Detroit, to remove the animal from this situation and work with local prosecutors on any applicable charges. We are adamant about scheduling check-up visits and thoroughly documenting what we witness, because if we do end up removing an animal, we are able to have the owner’s consistent behavior documented – a piece of evidence crucial to prosecuting anyone who puts an animal in harm’s way.

As you can imagine, these types of situations are incredibly frustrating for us at MHS, just as they are for you. MHS field services staff are on the streets 365 days a year. MHS will go to any lengths we legally can to help an animal in need. However, the instant we step outside the law, we compromise our extensive outreach and field programs, putting tens of thousands of animals at risk. The moment we act illegally, we put our credibility and authority in peril. The consequences of this would undermine our ability to successfully prosecute our current and future animal cruelty cases, all of our records would fall into jeopardy, as well as our ability to work with all entities for the good of animals in need. Because of this, we will continue to fight for these animals while ensuring our team of cruelty investigators and rescue team members are extensively trained with the tools to act within the law – enabling us to continue to operate and respond to the 10,000-plus cruelty complaints and emergency rescue calls we receive each year.

In the absence of serious and immediate danger, no one can just leap into a backyard and take an animal. Doing so is the equivalent of stealing, regardless of the motives, and is robbing that animal from an opportunity at true justice while undermining the processes in place that make animal welfare a true profession. Even the authority of Detroit Animal Control officers to enter a home or yard without a warrant, in cases of local ordinance issues, is being challenged by a group of dog-owning residents. If we do not think the system in place to protect animals is effective, then we must collectively work to improve the system – not subvert it.

I have roughly 20 years’ experience in animal welfare, and I am an animal control officer in two states, including Michigan. I have worked countless complex cases of animal cruelty and taught police officers in four states in the area of basic animal control principles and animal cruelty investigations. From experience, I can say that it is hard to see an animal at the end of a chain and say, “I’ll be back for you.” It is hard to not react instinctively with the suffering you see. Anyone who commits their time and efforts towards animal welfare has my respect. However, that compassion and commitment must exist within the context of laws that exist to protect us all, or we undermine the very principles we claim to uphold.

– Matthew Pepper, MHS President and CEO

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A Chance to Double the Impact for Animals This Valentine’s Day

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11,172. This, my friends, is a reason to celebrate. 11,172 lives saved in 2015. You made that possible. Through your support and commitment to our mission, last year was arguably the most impactful single year in the 138 year history of the Michigan Humane Society. However, there is much still to do.

Our annual Valentine’s Telethon is a great event supporting our work on behalf of the animals in our community. It speaks volumes to the continued engagement and support of our community in improving the lives of animals throughout metro Detroit. Funds raised through our telethon help us continue to make our critical services and programs possible:

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  • Our emergency rescue and animal cruelty investigation teams are on the streets today, in this brutally cold weather, serving animals without proper shelter, food or water – situations that are clearly life and death.
  • This support will enable MHS to assist thousands of families who love their pet dearly but are currently facing financial hardships, making it difficult to provide for their pet. MHS’ Keeping Families Together programs, all of which you make possible, prevent the heartbreak and anguish that comes from a family having to surrender a beloved companion solely on the basis of their current financial situation.
  • Thousands of animals will receive extensive and expert veterinary care and/or behavior rehabilitation on their way to finding a second home. Many of these animals are in MHS’ care for weeks or months until they are ready for placement.
  • As mentioned above, 11,172 animal lives were provided a new home and second chance last year – almost twice as many lives saved as the next largest shelter in Michigan even takes in.

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We must break through additional barriers and challenges to save even more lives, as even one animal life left behind is one too many! As we look at the next step; the next population of at-risk animals, the answers get more complicated and take more resources. Animals with significant behavior issues, perhaps the product of abuse or neglect, require extensive behavior modification, time and work. Animals that perhaps have never seen a veterinarian, or even the inside of a home, or animals with an emergency medical crisis for which MHS veterinarians are the difference between life and death.

The difference between that next population of animals in need and that second chance is your support. Yesterday was a good day, but we are hoping to make it a great day for the additional animals that need our help.

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We have a unique opportunity to build upon yesterday’s success! Thanks to Mike Palmer and his incredible team at Premier Pet Supply, donations made today to MHS will be matched!

On average, it costs MHS $192 to transform the life of a single animal. Would you consider being that difference? And with the Premier Pet Supply match your donation of $192 would be helping to save 2 animal lives. Is that not the perfect way of honoring that special loved one on Valentine’s Day – the gift of life?

With your support, we can continue our commitment to giving the animals of Southeast Michigan, those that have been forgotten, an opportunity at life.

Whether $1 or $1,000 – it all will make a difference for animals in great need. You will allow us to give them a new leash on life.

Thank you!

“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.”

~ Anatole France

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2015 Year in Review


For more than 138 years, the Michigan Humane Society (MHS) has served as a voice for the animals of Southeast Michigan and an advocate for those everywhere. There are only two things that have remained constant in all that time: our principles, and change. We are as committed as ever to providing a better life for the animals we share our lives with, yet the manner in which we do so is constantly evolving.

Today, we are saving lives like we never have; we are implementing new programs to better the lives and outcomes of the animals, both in our shelters and in our community; we remain on the cutting edge of best practices; and we are constantly asking ourselves “what’s next?”. MHS is constantly evolving, yet our singular guiding principle remains the same: to save lives.

2015 was an incredible year for MHS. However, there is still much to be done: a better model must be established in the City of Detroit; preventative programs need to be more accessible and widespread in our community; collaboration must replace animosity among animal welfare organizations; there are still animal lives out there to be impacted. We are committed to using the incredible successes of the past year as a foundation to even greater things this year. We need your help. Whether you can adopt, foster, donate, volunteer, advocate, or all of the above – please walk alongside us.

“I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past.”
– Thomas Jefferson

Over the past 138 years, through the support of our community, MHS has saved countless lives and impacted countless more. Still, the future has even more potential and we are filled with anticipation and excitement. We are dreaming big this year!

– Matthew Pepper, President and CEO


Sugar Ray, a blind Cattle Dog mix, poses with his new adoptive family!

11,000+ Adoptions and Placements

11,172 to be exact! That’s 11,172 individual lives saved and 11,172 families who chose adoption. That’s 11,172 animals who are now warm, safe and loved, and 11,172 families who are now fuller and happier. Most importantly, it’s not the number of animals that matters most; rather that each of these adoptions and placements represents a life – a life who you helped to positively transform.

We could never have done this without supporters like you. Adoptions don’t happen in a day, they happen over days and sometimes weeks or months, leading up to an animal finding a forever home.

An adoption doesn’t happen just because a loving family picks out a wonderful animal companion and signs a piece of paper. Adoptions happen because people know when they can no longer care for an animal, we will. They happen because our cruelty investigation and rescue teams are on the streets, rescuing the sick, the emaciated, the abused. They happen because we are able to provide animals with veterinary care the moment they come through our doors, and because we are able to provide them with a warm, safe bed and nutritious food. Adoptions happen because our foster caregivers provide those in need with a little extra time and TLC and because our animal behavior team creates individual training plans for those who need a little extra help. Adoptions happen because toys and blankets are donated to keep animals busy and cozy. They happen because, when an overlooked animal needs a bit more visibility, our supporters share their photo on social media. Adoptions happen because when people think of adopting, they think of MHS. And when someone chooses adoption, resources free up for the next animal in need. Adoptions happen because when others adopt, they gush to their family and friends how great the MHS adoption experience is and how much that pet has already become a part of the family. Adoptions happen because when people are able to donate, they choose to donate to MHS.

Adoptions and positive placements happen because of you. Together, we were able to make all of this happen, 11,172 times, just last year.

We worked especially hard encouraging people to adopt through a number of creative promotions. Our “Cat Independence Days” Fourth of July promotion blew our expectations out of the water, with 209 cats adopted in just three days. And later, when we partnered with our good friends at Strategic Staffing Solutions to celebrate their 25th anniversary with $25 adoption fees – the result: our shelters were nearly emptied.

All year long, we recognized those who keep our country safe with our Pets for Patriots reduced-fee adoptions, and gave them an extra-special thank-you on Veteran’s Day with fee-waived adoptions. In late December, we celebrated our supporters who were on Santa’s “nice” list by offering them a fee-waived cat adoption. These and other efforts added up to saving more lives.


Detroit community members and MHS staff pose at an open house for the new Detroit Animal Care Campus.

Advancements for Animal Welfare in Detroit

MHS continues to be a leading force for animal welfare in the city of Detroit.

In 2015, we took in more than 7,000 animals at our Detroit Center for Animal Care alone. The majority of these animals arrived at MHS with significant medical or behavioral issues.

We founded the PAWS in the D coalition, a collaborative group of animal welfare organizations whose efforts and expertise are focused on the needs of animals within Detroit. These organizations work to utilize the limited resources of each group in a collective way to maximize the reach and benefit for the city’s animals.

MHS continues to take animals from DAC into our care, helping them on the path to their forever homes. Additionally, MHS also continues to supply the pet food and vaccinations required by DAC to care for their animals at no cost to DAC. Furthermore, it is MHS that helped solidify the lines of communication between animal welfare organizations and the city of Detroit as DAC opened their doors to allow rescues to pull animals for adoption.

Construction on MHS’ new Detroit Animal Care Campus is nearing completion. Scheduled to open in early 2016, this state-of-the-art facility will provide the infrastructure to exponentially increase our impact on animal care, treatment and well-being for decades to come. What started the year as a plot of dirt has become an impressive facility ready to enhance our already significant efforts to save lives now and in the future.

21-Skipper's Rescue

MHS Emergency Rescue team members cut a chain off a dog left at an abandoned house.

Cruelty Investigation and Emergency Rescue

The MHS Cruelty Investigators responded to 5,557 cruelty calls last year in Detroit, Hamtramck and Highland Park. A major part of our cruelty investigation team’s role in the community is educating pet owners about responsible pet ownership in all its forms, including proper shelter, food and veterinary care. And, of course, strongly encourage people to keep their pets indoors.

And every day, the MHS Rescue team rushes to the aid of stray and wild animals in Detroit, Hamtramck and Highland Park who are injured, sick or trapped. The team responded to 3,322 calls in 2015.


Pet owners line up to take advantage of low-cost vaccinations and microchips at an MHS Protect-A-Pet clinic.

Keeping Families Together

While each animal who comes to MHS receives the highest quality care on their way to a new forever home, it would be ideal if those animals never became homeless in the first place. Helping to keep animals in good homes is essential to reducing the homeless animal population.

One of the biggest needs for families struggling with financial issues – and sometimes the deciding factor in whether they can keep their animals – is pet food. In 2015, we served 6,305 low-income families by providing them with pet food free of charge. We rely on food donations to keep this free pet food bank service up and running, and we have found the need is substantial.

Helping pet owners to spay or neuter their animals at no or low cost also helps keep animals out of shelters by reducing the number of unwanted litters. In 2015, we sterilized 11,909 animals at our veterinary centers, distributed 331 free sterilization certificates for pit bull type dogs, and sterilized 699 feral cats through our Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) program. We also sterilize each animal that is adopted from MHS. That’s a total of 24,111 animals who will not be contributing to the breeding population of unwanted litters!

We also microchipped 8,498 animals in 2015, which means more than 8,000 animals have an easy route home if they are ever lost! 2,000 of those microchips were distributed at no cost to cat owners as part of a free microchip promotion.


A child reads to a kitten who is being fostered by her family.

Saving Lives Through Foster Care

Some animals who come into our care require a little extra time and TLC before they’re ready to be adopted into loving homes. Sometimes they’re not old enough to be adopted, sometimes they need extra socialization or time out of the shelter, sometimes they’re recovering from injury, and often times they have an illness, such as an upper respiratory infection. That’s where our foster caregivers come in. These amazing volunteers provide short-term care for shelter animals until they’re ready to be adopted.

In 2015, 1,105 kittens, 512 cats, 196 puppies, 251 dogs, and 59 reptiles, birds and small animals benefitted from a short-term stay in more than 300 MHS foster homes across metro Detroit. That’s 2,123 more lives saved, thanks to the compassionate caregivers who were willing to open their homes and hearts to animals in need.

Detroit Lions wide receiver Golden Tate even got involved as a foster parent with MHS!


An MHS volunteer gives some extra attention to a cat at the Berman Center for Animal Care.

Our Amazing Volunteers

Collectively, our volunteers donated more than 42,000 hours of service last year alone. Our volunteers go above and beyond every day for the animals in MHS’ care. That is 42,000 hours ensuring dogs are walked, cats are cuddled, animals are photographed for the website, and our adoption and fundraising events are running smoothly.

But that number, 42,000 hours, doesn’t tell the full story of that one high energy dog our volunteers stay late with every time they’re at the shelter so she can run an extra 10 minutes outside. Or the shy cat they got to know so they could tell adopters all about the great qualities hidden under his introverted exterior. It doesn’t factor in the effort of lovingly crafting cozy blankets so our animals have comfort, nor the time spent raising thousands of dollars for our Mutt March and Mega March for Animals events, the garage sales, parties, or the Christmas light shows put on to support to the animals. The simple fact is MHS could not exist without our volunteers!


Animal welfare professionals pose at the 2015 Great Lakes Animal Welfare Conference “Bright Ideas” session – where people from around the state shared stories of how they improved the lives of animals in their shelters or communities.

Collaboration with Other Animal Welfare Organizations

While MHS works to save lives in metro Detroit and beyond, we have always stressed that the job ahead of us is too big for any one organization. This is why we feel it is important to foster a cooperative animal welfare community in Detroit and the state of Michigan.

MHS works with hundreds of rescue groups and animal shelters both to transfer animals into our facilities when other organizations need assistance and to transfer animals out of our facilities that can be better served with another, more specialized animal welfare organization. This year we took in 2,498 animals from other organizations in order to provide opportunities at life.

The Great Lakes Animal Welfare Conference saw 398 animal welfare professionals and volunteers from Michigan and 17 other states gather to learn from experts from around the country. We also continued to host our “Visit, Share, Learn” sessions, where we invite staff from other animal organizations to see how we run day-to-day operations at MHS.

In 2015, we launched another key initiative designed specifically to improve the interaction and outcomes for the fine men and women of our local law enforcement agencies and animals. The MHS Law Enforcement Training Academy was designed to help law enforcement organizations learn about several key issues, including: animal behavior in the field, Michigan animal law (including the legal implications when dogs are shot by law enforcement), dog fighting awareness, animals as evidence, and human violence and animal cruelty in our Law Enforcement Training Academies. Last year we presented to Oakland County, Macomb County and the Detroit Police Department and there is much more to come.

Thanks to you, our amazing community and your most significant and committed support, we were able to drastically impact the animals and citizens of Metro Detroit an beyond – and we are resolved in our ability to make your continued support go even further in 2016 and save more lives!

Thank you.