Sunday, July 19, 2015

Cities of Strays

Revised: July 20, 2015; 15:22 GMT
Revised: July 21, 2015; 05:14 GMT
Revised: July 22, 2015; 14:42 GMT

Estimates indicate there could be more than a million stray dogs in Houston, Texas.
USA Today; March 24, 2015
* * * * *

It became the story that wouldn't die.

In January, 2011 the Detroit Film Office blocked a $1.4 million proposal from the Discovery Channel. Journalist Chris Christoff, writing for the Detroit Free Press, said the proposed docudrama would capture life from the perspective of Detroit's feral and abandoned stray dogs.

Two weeks after Detroit rejected the movie proposal Dan Carlisle1 and Monica Martino posted a five-minute video to YouTube. The video included scenes of stray dogs and, incredibly, a starving American Bulldog eating the carcass of a dead pit bull puppy.

Carlisle's video announced that Detroit was home to 50,000 feral or abandoned strays. The number jolted the animal welfare community. A year later, in March, 2012, Rolling Stone brought the story of Detroit's stray dogs to national attention with City of Strays.

Questions began to surface about Carlisle's figure of 50,000 stray dogs. By late summer of 2013 Tom McPhee, director of the World Animal Awareness Society, decided to put an end to the speculation. In a landmark survey, forty teams of observers would count Detroit's stray dogs on September 21st and 22nd, 2013.

(Image courtesy of American Strays; click to expand)

By this time Chris Christoff had moved from the Detroit Free Press to Bloomberg Business News. In August, 2013, a month before McPhee's planned survey, Christoff reprised his 2011 Free Press stray dogs article. The Bloomberg publication of Abandoned Dogs Roam Detroit in Packs as Humans Dwindle hit Detroit and the national animal welfare community like a firestorm. Newspapers around the globe picked up the story.

In his new article Christoff doubled down on the image of Detroit as a ruined city:
 It was almost post-apocalyptic, where there are no businesses, nothing except people in houses and dogs running around.2
A year later, when McPhee's survey was completed and the data tabulated and released, the number of Detroit strays was revised dramatically downward. McPhee determined there were between 1,000 and 3,000 "loose dogs" in Detroit. But the two-and-a-half year drumroll of stray dog news insured that Detroit would never shake the perception of a city occupied by armies of stray dogs.

* * * * * 

There are an estimated 600 million stray dogs spread across the globe, living in nearly every city. According to Merritt Clifton, editor of Animals 24-7, there are approximately 5,000 stray dogs in the US on any given day.3

The global stray dog problem is largely identified with cities in developing countries of the global south. The majority of the world's strays are unbred landraces or village dogs, fawn-colored dogs of the kind that existed before man began selectively breeding Canis familiaris.

Many of the global strays live openly in their communities, and are supported either directly or indirectly by the community. Strays in Moscow reportedly know how to use the complex subway system, boarding and getting off at various stops along with their fellow commuters.

America's strays, on the other hand, are a largely invisible population, hiding during the days and foraging for food in the early morning hours. When we talk about American stray dogs, Detroit's in particular, we are talking primarily about pit bull type dogs.

* * * * *

In 2014 the US stray dog news front moved to Saginaw. Throughout the summer and fall packs of strays attacked both companion animals and humans. Trail cameras caught eerie night vision images of dog packs, roaming like zombie dogs along hunting tracks. After one pack was eliminated the county discovered another night-roaming pack, and warned citizens to remain vigilant. In 2015 the cities of Flint, Michigan, and Little Rock, Arkansas reported neighborhoods overrun by stray dogs.

The stray dog problem in Houston is of a different order of magnitude: headlines claimed there were 1.2 million stray dogs in Houston. Unlike Detroit's figures, which were the product of Dan Carlisle's fertile imagination, the 1.2 million figure came from BARC, the city's Bureau of Animal Regulation and Care.

After the initial shock of the headlines wore off people realized that 900,000 of those stray animals were cats, allowing for 300,000 stray dogs. BARC had arrived at the number by using "a math formula hodgepodged from a couple of sources."4 McPhee believes Houston's numbers may also be inflated and is now at work surveying Houston's stray dog population.

It would be pointless to compare the stray dog problems in Houston and Detroit. Detroit is a rustbelt city; Houston is a sunbelt city. Detroit is contracting; Houston is expanding. Detroit is 20th-century urban; Houston is 21st-century suburban. Detroit's economy is a shambles; Houston's is booming.

And the dogs are different.

The problems in the two cities aren't comparable but they point to similar failures in each city. The failures can be attributed to both civic institutions and animal welfare organizations. NGO's in Houston, working in concert with BARC, spend a small fortune to ship stray dogs out of state rather than euthanize them. Houston's wealthy animal welfare benefactors have purchased a fleet of specially equipped transporters that are constantly ferrying strays to far-away cities.

Detroit is the end of the line for stray dogs; there's nowhere to ship Detroit strays. Instead the region's numerous pit bull rescue organizations endlessly recycle the breed of obsession, insuring that many pit bulls end up on the streets a second or even a third time.

Rescues could be accused of dog laundering,5 sometimes renaming and moving dangerous dogs from one location to another to hide their history, rather than working for the benefit of all our society's companion animals. Some rescue organizations act with impunity because the state provides little or no oversight. There is a simple solution to Detroit's problem of a runaway rescue system: the state legislature should pass legislation mandating that every dog passing through a licensed Michigan rescue organization or shelter must be entered in a special registry for stray, abandoned, feral, and rescue dogs.

With the recent cessation of efforts to standardize microchipping,6 an alternate registration system must be developed. This would enable law enforcement to determine responsibility for any attacks by rescued dogs, and help public officials track a growing public safety issue. Shelters and rescue organizations would be more inclined to act responsibly when placing fighting breeds in homes, if they knew attacks would be traced back to them.

Before Detroit, out-of-control dog population was associated primarily with third world countries. Detroit, with the assistance of a prolific pit bull advocacy and rescue network, has demonstrated that even a first-world city can make the mistakes that lead to a third-world animal welfare tragedy.

The stray dog problems in Houston, Dallas, Detroit and other American cities is a tragedy created not by nature or by neglect; it is a tragedy created by humans. These humane tragedies were created by the determined, on-going policies of pit bull rescue organizations, and by the passivity of the government institutions that allow them to continue.

As this post was being prepared the Henderson County, NC Sheriff’s Office confirmed that the pit bull who killed six-year-old Joshua Phillip Strother in Hendersonville, North Carolina on July 7 had been adopted from the Asheville Humane Society three weeks before the attack. The dog had been brought to AHS as a stray by the Buncombe County Sheriff's office. It was then monitored by the AHS for 30 days, after which it was adopted by Joshua's neighbors. The Sheriff's Office said no charges will be filed. Joshua was the third fatal pit bull attack in a seven-day period. [Ed. A fourth fatal pit bull attack occurred several days later.]

Joshua Phillip Strother, 6 yo; d. July 7, 2015

Fort Worth Addendum:
FORT WORTH — A skinny brown pit bull sits in a parking lot watching traffic on Berry Street.

Nearby, two more pits — a male and female — roam free. No collars.

A third rounds the corner behind them, dragging his leash down Sydney Street.

Fort Worth has plan to deal with stray dogs
   March 3, 2015; WFAA ABC 8

* * * * *
1   Mr Carlisle, a local Detroit celebrity and entrepreneur, is also a hip-hop artist who records under the name Hush.
2   Amanda Arrington of HSUS; Bloomberg Business News, Aug 20, 2013
3   This figure does not include semi-owned dogs who run at large, as on Native American reservations and in parts of the rural South.
4   Houston's problem is not 1.2 million stray dogs; Houston Chronicle, March 27, 2015
5   See Dog Laundering, SRUV
6   As this post was readied for publication we learned that microchipping has no preventive value. See Entrepreneur finds pet microchip problem unsolvable. States are urged to develop an alternate, reliable registry for identifying and tracking rescue dogs across state lines.

Stray Dog Resources:
Stray Dog Population Management
    World Animal Protection
Stray Dog Population Control 2015
   Terrestrial Animal Health Code Chap 7.7
   World Organization for Animal Health (OIE Home page)
Animal welfare: why dogs are a development issue
   May 2, 2014; The Guardian
600 Million Spay and Neuter Cookies
   600 Million Dogs
Stray Dogs Around the World - How Big Is The Problem
   World Animal Awareness Society
[This page includes an extensive list of resources]

International Stray Dogs:
Stray dogs targeted after attack on governor Kilpatrick
   July 24, 2015; Cayman Compass
Number of stray dogs put down 'double the national average'
   July 22, 2015; Telegraph & Argus (UK)
7,700 Stray Dogs Found in West Last Year
   July 22, 2015; Western Morning News (UK)
Huge bill for re-homing stray dogs
   July 15, 2015; Uttoxeter Advertiser
Indian state's plans to cull stray dogs hits opposition
   July 13, 2015; CNN
   The WHO reported in April 2014 that India has about 18,000 to 20,000 cases of rabies a year and 36% of the world's deaths from the disease are found in the country.
Bitten and bruised by stray dogs, Kerala cracks down
   July 9, 2015; Hindustan Times
End your stray dog cull, UK tells Romania
   June 21, 2015; Daily Mail
Dozens injured in stray dogs’ attack in eastern Turkey
   June 11, 2015; BGN News
Istanbul’s stray golden retrievers taken to US for adoption
   May 12, 2015; BGN News
Stray dogs interrupt flights at Istanbul airport
   April 22, 2015; Hurriyet Daily News
Iranians protest killing of stray dogs
   April 20, 2015; AL-Monitor, Iran Pulse
Turkish woman dies due to attack by stray dogs
   March 16, 2015; Hurriyet Daily News
What happened to the 51,000 stray dogs captured in Bucharest?
   January 16, 2015; Romania Insider
Where Streets Are Thronged With Strays Baring Fangs
   August 6, 2012; New York Times
Man’s Best Friend or the World’s Number-One Pest?
   July 18, 2012; The Smithsonian
With perhaps 600 million strays skirmishing for food on the fringe of the human world, street dogs are a common element of travel just about everywhere

Moscow's Subway Strays
The Search for Moscow's Train-Riding Dogs
   September 12, 2013; The Moscow Times
Moscow's Metro Dogs
   July 8, 2013; New Yorker
Stray Dogs Master Complex Moscow Subway System
   March 19, 2010; ABC News
Moscow's Stray Dogs Evolving Greater Intelligence, Including a ...
    January 21, 2010; Popular Science

Feral, Abandoned, Loose, and Stray (FALS) Dogs in the United States:
Police dog killed by stray dog in Roan Mountain
   July 27, 2015; Johnson City Press (TN)
Gunner was attacked by a stray dog he had not seen around the area before. He said the stray dog was a silver pit bull mix.
Pack of stray dogs intimidating a Little Rock community
   June 29, 2015; THV 11
Petition fights stray animal hold ordinance in Chicago
   April 13, 2015; Columbia Chronicle
Fort Worth has plan to deal with stray dogs
   March 3, 2015; WFAA ABC 8
Stray dogs have guardian angel in Chicago area
   Feb 9, 2015; Chicago Tribune
7 Years After Katrina, New Orleans Is Overrun by Wild Dogs
   August 24, 2012; The Atlantic
When residents fled the city, many left their pets behind. Today, those animals and their offspring are roaming the streets in overwhelming numbers.
The secret lives of feral dogs
   by Will Doig
   January 14, 2012; Salon
The Ecology of Stray Dogs: A Study of Free-Ranging Urban Animals
   by Alan M. Beck
   June 30, 1973; Purdue University Press (e-book)

Houston & Dallas Stray Dogs:
Winnetka Heights dog attack: scary reminder of why strays issue must be fixed
   August 19, 2015; Dallas Morning News
See where Dallas residents rank stray dogs problem
   July 20, 2015; Dallas Morning News
Residents terrorized by wild dogs
   June 12, 2015; MyFox Houston
No solutions in sight for southern Dallas’ abandoned dogs
   June 5, 2015; Dallas Morning News
Houston's problem is not 1.2 million stray dogs
   March 27, 2015; Houston  Chronicle
‘Loose’ or ‘abandoned’ dogs? The city doesn’t have a clue which are which
   March 25, 2015; Dallas Morning News
Drones  Being Used to Track Houston's Stray Dogs
   by Marcelino Benito, KHOU-TV, Houston
   March 24, 2015; USA Today
There’s only one way Dallas will solve its stray dog crisis
   March 19, 2015; Dallas Morning News
Rather Than Fix the Problem, Houston Officials Ship Stray Animals Off to Other States
   by Craig Malisow
   Houston Press; February 17, 2015
Stray Dog Complaints on the Rise on East End
   October 6, 2014; ABC 13 Eyewitness News

Michigan Stray Dogs:
Detroit gets first no-kill dog shelter
   July 28, 2015; Detroit News
Detroit Dog Rescue says its animals are safe after meeting with Mayor Mike Duggan
   June 18, 2015; MLive
Thousands Sign Petition To Shut Down Detroit Animal Control, Claiming It Kills 95 Percent Of Dogs
   June 18, 2015; CBS Detroit
Flint residents say stray dogs are making neighborhoods unsafe
   June 14, 2015; MLive
Rescue groups seek Detroit Animal Control reform
   June 13, 2015; Detroit News
MSU researchers want to figure out how many stray dogs are really roaming Detroit
   January 26, 2015; Michigan Radio
Search for wild dogs in Saginaw continues as deputies install trail cameras
   October 17, 2014; Saginaw News
Trail camera captures dog images in terrorized southwest Saginaw neighborhood
   October 13, 2014; Saginaw News
Detroit's stray dog population is likely 1,000, includes 10 packs; get an expert's analysis
   October 10, 2014; MLive
Sheriff's department warns Saginaw residents to watch for another pack of wild dogs
   October 8, 2014; Ann Arbor News
Pack of wild dogs still linger in Saginaw neighborhood
   October 6, 2014; Ann Arbor News
Detroit students will learn pet care along with the 3 R's
   August 31, 2014; Detroit Free Press
Fourth dog shot and wounded as search for roaming pack in Saginaw winds down
   July 22, 2014; MLive
Wild dog pack continues to strike fear in community
   July 18, 2014; WNEM
Pet Pomeranian attacked and carried off by wild dogs in southern Saginaw County, woman says
   July 18, 2014; Saginaw News
Trail camera photographs pack of dogs roaming southwest Saginaw
   July 3, 2014; MLive
Saginaw sheriff to seek Michigan State Police help to track pack of dangerous dogs
   July 3, 2014; The Saginaw News
Dog pack roaming southwest Saginaw kills 65-pound domesticated dog; police say beware
   July 1, 2014; Saginaw News
Detroit's stray pets overwhelm rescue workers
   February 3, 2014; MSU Global Urban Studies Program
New study: Nowhere close to 50,000 stray dogs in Detroit
   January 21, 2014; Michigan Radio
Michigan: Study Disputes Stray Dog Numbers
   January 20, 2014; New York Times
American Strays: Canine Survey & Treasure Hunt (FaceBook)
   September 21, 2013; World Animal Awareness Society
The truth about Detroit: Are there 50,000 abandoned dogs in the city?
   August 22, 2013; Detroit Free Press
No, Detroit Is Not Beset By Wild Dogs (Blog)
   August 22, 2013; Jalopnik Detroit
Packs of starving stray dogs swarm Detroit as people flee . . . 
   August 22, 2013; Daily Mail
'Post-Apocalyptic:' Detroit Wild Dogs Article Resembles Horror Film Pitch
   August 21, 2013; Deadline Detroit
Abandoned Dogs Roam Detroit in Packs as Humans Dwindle
   August 20, 2013; Bloomberg
City of Strays: Detroit's Epidemicof 50,000 Abandoned Dogs
   March 20, 2012; Rolling Stone
Duo exposes Detroit's stray dog problem after city rejects reality series
   February 2, 2011; MLive
Detroit won't bite on TV show about stray dogs
   By Chris Christoff; WZZM ABC
   (Originally published in the Detroit Free Press, Jan 13, 2011)

Other Michigan Pit Bull News:
Ahead of pit bull change, Hazel Park woman says dog attacked for second time
   July 6, 2015; MyFoxDetroit
Girl bitten by dog [pit bull] at Grand Haven splash pad
   July 6, 2015; WOOD TV8
Farms looks to add teeth to dog, animal control ordinances
   July 1, 2015; C&G News
Mother Asks For Help After Dog [pit bull] Bites 14-Month-Old Son
   June 30, 2015; 9 & 10 News
Man Attacked By Dog [pit bull] Speaks Out About 'Terrifying' Ordeal
   June 19, 2015; 9&10 News
Pit bull attacks jogger on roadway
   June 17, 2015; Crawford County Avalanche
Pitbull shot dead after fatal attack
   June 9, 2015; Hometown Life
Pit Bull Mix Attacks Edwardsburg Michiagan Woman, Becomes Victim Of Cyber Bullying
   June 8, 2015; The Inquisitr
Pit bull attacks postal worker
   June 6, 2015; Monroe News
Bay City pit bull-boxer mix bites police officer, owner fighting to keep dog alive
   June 5, 2015; MLive
Pit bull attack (Canton, MI)
   June 2, 2015; Hometown Life
Northern Mich. girl hospitalized after pit bull attack
   May 21, 2015; Detroit Free Press
. . . emergency crews took the girl to McLaren Northern Michigan Hospital, and she later was airlifted to DeVos Children's Hospital in Grand Rapids.
$100 million 'symbolic' judgment entered in dog attack case
   May 19, 2015; Houston Chronicle
3 injured by pit bull after breaking up fight with other dogs
   May 10, 2015; WDIV Detroit
Hazel Park set to lift ban on pit bulls
   May 8, 2015; Daily Tribune
Hazel Park lifts pit bull ban
   May 7, 2015; WDIV Detroit
Hazel Park lifts pit bull ban after dog saves domestic abuse victim
   May 7, 2015; Fox 2 News
Flint Police shoot, run-over dog with history of biting people
   May 7, 2015; MI NBC News
Mail Carrier Bitten By Dog
   May 5, 2015; WBKB Fox TV (Alcona County, MI)
Family dog shot and killed by neighbor in Canton
   May 5, 2015; Detroit Free Press
Hazel Park plans on denigrating the local veterans Memorial Day parade with pitbull promoters and their dogs allowed to walk in the parade (Letter)
   May 1, 2015; Oakland Press
Pit Bull Put Down After Biting Teenager
   April 24, 2015; WLNS (Ingram County)
Woman seriously injured by dog attack in Grosse Pointe Farms
   April 9, 2015; WDIV Detroit
The Hazel Park pit bull ban
   March 15, 2015; Fox News (Discussion/interview panel)
Two more pit bulls face removal as Hazel Park's breed-specific ban controversy rages
   March 12, 2015; Daily Tribune
Hazel Park neighbors, pitbull owners working together to repeal breed ban
   March 10, 2015; Fox News Detroit
Animal rights group intervening to help hero Pit Bull
   March 10, 2015; Fox News Detroit
Pit bull bites Newaygo Co. sheriff’s deputy
   March 9, 2015; WOOD TV
Hero pit bull saves owner during domestic violence, faces removal from home due to city ordinance
   March 7, 2015; Oakland Press
Pitbull credited for saving owner, but will be removed from Hazel Park home
   March 6, 2015; Fox 2 Detroit
Man runs animal shelter out of Hazel Park home
   February 25, 2015; Click on Detroit
Clinton Township man ‘fights for his life' in dog attack on Clinton River Trail
   February 4, 2014; Oakland Press
Man bitten by pit bull while shopping at PetSmart in Southfield
   January 7, 2015; Oakland Press
Pit bull owners praise breed, fight Waterford ordinance
   February 24, 2013; Oakland Press
Pit Bull: Family Pet or Dangerous Animal?
   July 6, 2010; Fox2 Detroit
In the second video, a panel of guests joins Huel Perkins to debate pit bulls during a special edition of "Let It Rip". Joining him are Michele Watts, whose dog was killed by a pit bull, Terry Hodskins, who is a pit bull owner, and FOX 2 Legal Analyst Charlie Langton.
Protesters voice outrage over pit bull euthanasia
   November 15, 2009; Oakland Press

Other Sources:
Senate Bill 239 (2015) Legiscan
Senate Bill 239 (2015) MI Legislature
Senate Bill 239 (2015) Text

Statistics quoted on SRUV are from the nation's authoritative source for current dog attack statistics, the 30+ year, continuously updated Dog attack deaths and maimings, U.S. & Canada.
View or download the current PDF

2014 Year-end report of dog attacks
   Animals 24-7; January 3, 2015
32 years of logging fatal & disfiguring dog attacks
   Animals 24-7; September 27, 2014
How many other animals did pit bulls kill in 2014?
   Animals 24-7; January 27, 2015

This page may also include information from Dogsbite &Fatal Pit Bull Attacks.

Google News: Today's pit bull attacks

2014 Dog Bite Related Fatalities on Daxton's Friends
Index of canine fatalities on Daxton's Friends

SRUV uses the definition of "pit bull" as found in the Omaha Municipal Code Section 6-163. As pit bulls are increasingly crossed with exotic mastiffs, Catahoula Leopard Dogs and other breeds, the vernacular definition of "pit bull" must be made even more inclusive.

Sources cited by news media sometimes refer to "Animal Advocates" or sometimes "Experts." In many cases these words are used to refer to single-purpose pit bull advocates who have never advocated for any other breeds or species of animals. Media would be more accurate to refer to these pit bull advocates as advocates of fighting breeds.

Similarly, in many cases pit bull advocates refer to themselves as "dog lovers" or "canine advocates" and media often accepts this usage. The majority of these pit bull advocates are single-purpose advocates of fighting breeds.