Dogs killed by Detroit police: How big is this problem, and what can be done?

Number of dogs killed by Detroit police continues to rise

DETROIT – At least 74 dogs have died as a result of Detroit police officers opening fire on them between 2020 and 2022.

Detroit animal rescuers said the issue is complicated. But why is it happening? And what can be done to solve the problem?

Animal rescuers said part of the issue is that the city has a serious stray dog problem. Lori Sowle helps manage Detroit Animal Control.

“I have no idea how many dogs (are) in population here,” Sowle said. “But I can tell you it’s a big population.

Sowle said last month more homeless dogs wound up at Detroit’s animal shelter than at any time in the past three years. Experts have said the stray dog population exploded after the 2009 housing crisis. People moved out of their homes, left their dogs, and those dogs became strays and repopulated.

Then COVID hit and the dog population in Detroit rose again.

“Now, all the people with COVID dogs that have to go back to work, now they’re faced with, ‘What do I do?’” Sowle said.

Dogs involved in police shootings were loose 60% of the time

After reading through dozens of incident reports and sorting through the data, it’s clear that stray dogs are being shot by Detroit police officers.

In the reports, it was often mentioned that the dogs were acting aggressively. Out of the 100 shootings, in 60% of the cases, officers were shooting at dogs that were unrestrained, loose, or strays.

“There is an incredible amount of irresponsible dog owners in the city of Detroit,” Sowle said.

YearNumber of Dogs Shot/Shot atNumber of Dogs Killed

Detroit Dog Rescue works to save abandoned, neglected dogs

Detroit Dog Rescue is one of several groups that are working to save Detroit’s abandoned and neglected dogs.

Local 4 has followed Kristina Rinaldi and her team around for years, showing what they do and how they try to help.

“Detroit has come such a long way. And I feel so lucky to see the progression. But we also have to be realistic. We have abandoned houses, you know, where drug dealers are storing dogs and drugs. We have crime, just like any city. We have stray dogs, just like any city,” Kristina Rinaldi said. “We see a lot of dogs tethered or left in backyards or left and abandoned houses. And what they turn into are socially sensory-deprived dogs.”

Under Detroit city ordinance, an animal may be tethered outdoors but for no longer than three hours per day. The dog also needs to be actively monitored and have food and water available.

Detroit Animal Control issues citations for dog law violations for things like breeding dogs, or not licensing dogs. So far this year, more than 250 tickets were issued for animal violations. Animal Control citations are usually ignored by the people who get them.

View: All of our coverage on Detroit police shootings involving dogs

Do you have more information about this or a similar story? Reach out to Karen Drew at

Detroit Police Department reports

About the Authors:

Karen Drew is the anchor of Local 4 News First at 4, weekdays at 4 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. She is also an award-winning investigative reporter.

Kayla is a Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit. Before she joined the team in 2018 she worked at WILX in Lansing as a digital producer.