After deadly dog mauling, Detroit bolsters animal services

Preparing for severe weather with your pet in mind can help ensure their safety when storms hit. (Photo by Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)
Preparing for severe weather with your pet in mind can help ensure their safety when storms hit. (Photo by Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)

DETROIT – The City of Detroit is making big changes to Animal Care and Control following a deadly dog mauling earlier this year, just one instance of dog-related violence in the city in recent years.

City officials announced today major investments and sweeping changes being made to improve community safety and animal care in the city, including hiring more staff, facility improvements, expanded hours and a new hotline: (313) 922-DOGS.

A key part of the city’s new plan is a new organizational structure to separate the animal control side of the operation from the care side.

“For years, DACC has been challenged with managing the dual responsibilities of animal control - making sure residents are safe - and the care that must be provided to the dogs we take in to our facility,” said Chief Public Health Officer Denise Fair. “In order to give both of these important functions the attention they require and deserve, we determined that it would be more effective if care and control were managed separately, coordinating when appropriate. This is a model we have seen in other major cities.”

Under the new structure, the animal care side of the operation will continue to reside with the Detroit Health Department under Director Mark Kumpf. In his role, Kumpf will focus solely on the sheltering and care of animals, pet vaccinations and licensing, as well as pet adoption efforts.

Kumpf’s key priorities will be to significantly increase the percentage of licensed dogs in the city, improving conditions and care for animals at the city’s shelter, and finding new homes for the stray dogs brought to the shelter that are determined to be appropriate for adoption.

Meanwhile, the Animal Control side of the operation will be managed by the city’s General Services Department, under the direction of Assistant Director Lori Sowle. Her priorities will be improving the process for reporting loose animals and the city’s response to those situations. Sowle also will focus on preventing loose dogs and potential dog bites by hiring a team of animal control inspectors, each of which will be responsible for his or her own city council district.

Sowle said her team is looking forward to the partnership with the Animal Care staff. “We are going to focus on data management through an improved hotline, which will allow us to better target our animal control efforts. GSD will also increase the level of service and presence in the community with our officers and investigators over the coming months“

Here is a breakdown of the changes coming to Detroit Animal Care and Control:

Customer Service

  • Expanding Animal Control operations to 12 hours a day, seven days per week beginning in December. Hours were expanded last week to 7 AM - 7 PM on Monday-Friday.  Weekend hours will be expanded to 7 AM - 7 PM by the end of the year.  
  • The city launched (313) 922-DOGS, a new hotline supported by an expanded call center that also will be staffed 7 AM – 7 PM, seven days per week to respond to complaints and answer customer questions.
  • Expanding awareness about dog owner responsibility, as well as licensing and adoption opportunities through paid marketing campaign. The city also recently secured a $123,000 PetSmart grant to pay for more spaying/neutering services.

Additional Staff

  • Seven additional animal care technicians for shelter operations to increase the total number to 20. The health department is in the process of obtaining a budget adjustment to accommodate these new hires
  • Nine additional control officers (previously announced) that have completed training and were sworn in on November 20, 2019 to bring the total to 19. In 2018, the city took 4,711 stray or loose animals off the street, a 68% increase from just two years prior.
  • Two additional part time veterinarians, one of which will transition to full time
  • The city is hiring seven Animal Control Investigators – one for each city council district to respond to citizen complaints and provide educational awareness. All are expected to be hired by January.

Major facility investment

  • Investing $3 million dollars in capital to expand the shelter for capacity and improved operations for both care and control operations. The current building now will be used exclusively for animal care operations, allowing the facility to increase its amount of space for the housing of dogs.  When completed by fall 2020, the shelter will be able to comfortably house 250 dogs, up from the current number of 150. 
  • Behind the current building, a new 9,000 square-foot structure will be built to provide space for administrative staff, the call center, surgery rooms and hospitality space for customers as they wait.

“Dog owners have a moral and legal responsibility to keep their dogs securely on their property,” said Sowle. “Dog owners must ensure their fences gates are properly tethered, meaning a bar or chain is in place to keep the fence gate properly enclosed. Pet owners are also responsible for keeping their dogs on a leash and or collar, especially in public spaces.”

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