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State licenses no-kill shelter in Detroit

Detroit Dog Rescue
via Facebook

Detroit Dog Rescue say it’s running the first-no kill shelter in the city.

Executive director Kristina Rinaldi says between its shelter and foster programs, they can care for 40 to 60 dogs at a time.  

"There's too many dogs that need our help,” Rinaldi says. “And there's residents out there that need our help as well.

“I mean, every day we get a call from a mother who can't get her child off of the school bus because there's a stray dog on her porch."

Group no longer putting a number on Detroit’s strays

Detroit Dog Rescue got some flack in recent years for overstating the number of stray dogs in the city.

Founder Monica Martino – a TV producer by trade, who made a Discovery Channel series about stray dogs in Detroit – was quoted saying there were some 50,000 strays.  

News outlets tripped over themselves to describe Detroit’s stray dog problem in apocalyptic terms.

Then a volunteer-driven survey foundthere were actually closer to 2,000 to 3,000 strays in the city.

As Nancy Kaffer pointed out in the Detroit Free Press, this was another example of people believing dumb stuff about Detroit, just because it sounds really bad.

“Let’s do some math, here: Detroit is 139 square miles. About 50,000 stray dogs in the city breaks down to about 360 per square mile, a number that would surely have a direct impact on quality of life in Detroit. Folks in the city would hardly be able to step outside without being swarmed by a dog pack. We’d all have to install modified cow catchers on the fronts of our cars. And the howling — my God, the howling — it’d keep you up nights.”

Now Rinaldi says it’s not about putting a number on the problem – it’s about helping dogs.

“I know there’ve been so many numbers. Honestly, I’m never going to throw a number out there. Because I don’t know. But I do know that we have a problem … animal control doesn’t have enough funding, they don’t have enough officers to cover the city.

“We have a problem in the city of Detroit, and every single day my phone is blowing up with people having trouble with their own dogs, with a dog that wandered into their yard and never left, or a stray dog.”

No-kill shelter means helping dogs who need it most

Usually when Detroit Dog Rescue gets called to come pick up a dog, the animal is in rough shape.

Rinaldi says that’s why its no-kill policy is so important: it lets them care for dogs that require a lot of time and money.

“By the time we usually get called, the dog health-wise is in really bad shape. It’s emaciated, it has parasites, it has never been vaccinated. It has heartworm, which costs us thousands of dollars. If that dog were to go almost anywhere else, then the dog would probably be euthanized.”

DDR also get a lot of pit bulls, German Shepherds and Rottweilers.

“They don’t deserve to die. They’re good dogs. A lot of the dogs … are overlooked because of their breeds, because of the reputation that their breed has.

“A lot of these dogs, they just need food and some love and they’re ready to go to a good home. And the other ones just need a little training, so we bring in volunteers and people to socialize them.”

With the no-kill policy at the shelter, dogs will never be euthanized for space or budget reasons, but “only if they are literally on the table already dying.”

Rinaldi says one time they had to euthanize a dog that was slowly and painfully dying of cancer, and another time “the FBI gave us a dog that was fed gunpowder,” which she says impacted its brain.   

Kate Wells is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently covering public health. She was a 2023 Pulitzer Prize finalist for her abortion coverage.
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