Does Detroit Really Have 50,000 Stray Dogs? Not Likely, Study Says

January 22, 2014
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Does Detroit have a stray dog problem? Anecdotally, this writer will sheepishly confess to having been chased by a pack of three rabid dogs after embarking on a selfie-taking expedition near CCS. (Related: Does Detroit have a “ruin porn selfie” problem?)

But how many strays does Detroit have? Estimates have varied wildly. In a 2012 article called “City of Strays: Detroit’s Epidemic of 50,000 Abandoned Dogs,” Rolling Stone reported:

Estimates vary, but groups place the number of strays in the city at anywhere between 20,000 and 50,000. The latter number, which would mean 350 strays per square mile, seems quite inflated; still, there’s no question the dogs are a serious problem. Detroit remains the poorest major city in the United States, and some residents who can no longer afford to take care of their dogs turn them loose, or else leave them behind when fleeing the city themselves. (Local shelters have a euthanization rate of 70 percent, so abandoning the dogs to fend for themselves might not even be, in some instances, the least humane of options.)

Recently, however, The World Animal Awareness Society released the results of a census that debunks this myth. Their findings were that the city had fewer than 3,000 strays. In fact, the report suggests that with more research the results will show less than 1,000 strays roaming the streets of Detroit on any given day.

That’s certainly better news, but still a problem. To remedy this, the WAAS has determined that the chief problem contributing to the stray epidemic is “a collective lack of good guardianship knowledge,” which they will combat with a series of educational videos targeted to Detroit’s fifth graders. From the report:

The World Animal Awareness Society has begun to discuss programs with the city’s stakeholders and has commenced work on a series of pet specific video-based lesson plans to assist in the transfer of pet guardianship skills. These lesson plans are being created for Detroit’s 5th graders. This lesson plan series is being created in cooperation with teachers from Pinckney, MI schools and will be available the fall of 2014 leading up to the 2014 Detroit canine survey. The 5th graders will be learning good pet guardian skills while learning how to assess the health of dogs in their own neighborhood through observation and reporting.

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