stray dog
A stray dog crosses traffic on Grand River Avenue on Detroit’s west side on Aug. 24, 2022. (BridgeDetroit Photo by Malachi Barrett)

Detroit plans to start construction in January on a new $6.6 million animal shelter after contracting and design changes pushed the previous start date back more than a year. 

City officials announced the updated timeline Wednesday in a press release, stating that construction of the facility near the corner of Ferry and Russell streets will finish before the end of 2023. The City Council previously approved a $6.6 million contract for design and construction services with Romulus-based Gandol, Inc. and $1 million in funding for new kennels for the facility with Shor-Line Manufacturing, based in Kansas City, Missouri. 

The new 30,000-square-foot facility will combine animal control and shelter space under one roof, with 200 kennels, a modern veterinary clinic, updated air filtration systems and larger areas for adoption, pet exercise, quarantine and isolation. By comparison, DACC’s existing headquarters – a former Michigan Humane Society building on Chrysler Drive – is 16,000 square feet and has 86 kennels. 

The plans call for an overhaul of an existing structure at 5700 Russell last used as office space for the Greater Detroit Resource Recovery Authority, a quasi-public agency that manages the city’s trash. Denise Fair Razo, Detroit’s chief public health officer, said the new space will allow for enhanced service in all areas of animal welfare. 

“We appreciate the support of Detroiters, including rescue groups and especially our elected officials who have championed this effort,” Razo said in the release. She could not be reached Wednesday for additional comment.

Theresa Sumpter, executive director of Detroit Pit Crew Dog Rescue and APAWS Veterinary Hospital, said the new facility is a long time coming. Sumpter, whose nonprofit organization has an agreement with the city to treat sick or injured dogs and take on animals involved in court cases, said Detroit’s animal care facility poses a health risk to the staff and animals inside. Animal advocates have been pushing for a new facility for years, Sumpter said, but the city has been slow to act. 

The animal control office relocated to Chrysler Drive in 2016 after residents and animal advocates called for the closure of its former facility on Jefferson over poor conditions and operations and a high kill rate. 

“I’m really hoping this is truthful and they’re actually going to move forward in a direction that’s positive and swift,” Sumpter said. 

In the meantime, Sumpter said the city has been hit with a wave of stray animals partially stemming from adoptions that took place during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Everybody was sitting home and they’re like ‘OK, time to get a dog,’” Sumpter said. “They didn’t plan for the future when they had to go back to work or we had economic hard times after a pandemic, so now they’re turning these dogs back in. We’ve seen a significant uptick in animal abuse and abandonment.” 

Detroit has recorded an increase in dog bites since 2020, according to monthly reports published by the city. There were 609 dog bite incidents as of Nov. 1, which is already higher than the total in 2021 (590 bites) and 2020 (450 bites) with two months still unaccounted for. The most dangerous month for dog bites this year was in May, when 107 bites were recorded. 

Other statistics kept by Detroit Animal Care and Control followed a similar pattern. Animal control responded 12,602 times to calls from residents in 2020, which increased to 15,478 responses in 2021, and 15,779 responses this year as of Nov. 1.

Intakes at the Detroit Animal Care and Control facilities increased from 4,097 animals in 2020 to 4,613 the following year. The city reported 4,241 intakes so far this year, but the monthly average increased from 510 intakes to 626 intakes in the last year, putting Detroit on track to surpass its 2021 total year’s end. 

Detroit Animal Control investigators can be reached at (313) 922-DOGS.

LaJuan Counts, director of the Demolition Department, said in the release that the updated expansion plan allows the city to completely address the challenges the current facility now faces. 

“When this new shelter is completed, the DACC staff, as well as residents and animals, will have the improved facility they deserve,” she said. 

DACC is calling on Detroit pet owners to ensure their animals are secured, vaccinated against rabies, have a license and are microchipped. Residents must purchase a dog license online or in person at 7401 Chrysler Drive. Licenses require current proof of rabies vaccination, and a veterinarian is available on site to give rabies vaccinations during public hours for $25.

Detroiters are also asked to contact the Detroit Pit Crew at (248) 906-9022 if they see a stray dog or any animal that needs medical attention.

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