Detroit Animal Care and Control Transforming Under New Leadership

BY BTL STAFF

In August, the city of Detroit reported a 29 percent reduction in the number of dog bites in Detroit and an increase in the live release rate by nearly three times under Detroit Animal Care and Control's new director Melissa Miller.

Miller was appointed by Mayor Mike Duggan in December 2015 to take over for longtime director Harry Ward who fought lawsuits and fierce criticism during his leadership, according to a Detroit Free Press report. The DACC faced scrutiny over its kill rate and claims of unsanitary conditions, unreasonable policies and exorbitant fees.

City government news reveals that 97 percent of human-related bites in Detroit are from owned dogs, the majority of which have been allowed to run at-large. Also, chained dogs kept for the sole purpose of protection or breeding are responsible for 76 percent of hospital-attended dog bites and dog bite-related fatalities.

Miller and her team at DACC have helped reduce dog bites from 363 last year to 252 this year. This is due in part to being able to refer citizens to low-cost spay/neuter resources such as the Michigan Humane Society, Michigan Anti-Cruelty Society and All About Animals, as well as DACC's collaboration with the Paws in the D organization, which provides education on the safe confinement of animals and basic animal husbandry and care.

"Animal Care and Control is a key component to a successful public safety and health model," said Miller, who has managed a shelter for the Humane Society of the U.S. and cofounded the nonprofit group Dog Aide. She is also a certified professional dog trainer and behavior consultant through the Certification Council of Professional Dog Trainers.

"It is one of the responsibilities of our profession to educate our community on the connection between animal neglect and neighborhood violence and domestic abuse, as well as the correlation of dogs that are chained 24/7 and dog bites. Humane communities are safe communities," she said.

Within Miller's first 90 days, all animal control operators had completed 100 hours of in-service training on animal handling, cross-contagion management, cross-training in dispatch and license processing within the facility and on the road, and interacting with the public and providing citizen service. Miller initiated a new volunteer program to offset the staffing shortage and increase the quality of care for animals so that ACOs can respond to more calls and public issues.

DACC also collaborated with the Detroit City Council to introduce a six-month license amnesty program. License to Love: Free Dog Licensing Program offers free licenses until Oct. 31 with proof of current rabies vaccinations. The program will help to initiate the return of dogs to their owners, as well as help residents gain access to non-profit organizations to assist with basic needs, such as getting their dog vaccinated and spayed or neutered.

Miller also created a Facebook page, "Lost and Found Pets (Detroit)," which, along with adding more transfer partners, has increased return-to-owner rates.

MHS Supports DACC

In July MHS gifted its former facility at 7401 Chrysler Drive to DACC, so it could relocate its shelter operations and serve as its new base of operations under an agreement approved by the Detroit City Council. In addition, the division will launch expanded hours of service to better serve the public in a highly accessible location off I-75.

"The Michigan Humane Society has been a true friend in supporting DACC's efforts in increasing public safety through community initiatives," Miller said. "This centrally-located facility will allow us to respond more efficiently to public safety issues and is also more accessible to the public. We look forward to being able to provide the animals in our care with an increased quality of housing."

MHS opened their new Dresner Foundation Animal Care Campus in March at 7887 Chrysler Drive, just two blocks north of its former Detroit home, in order to expand its animal welfare and community outreach programs as well as increase the scope of services provided by its veterinary center.

"Our former Detroit shelter served the Michigan Humane Society and the city of Detroit well for more than 85 years and has had a truly incredible impact on animal welfare," said Matthew Pepper, MHS president and CEO. "While our expanded programs and services outgrew this facility, the building still serves as a well-functioning animal shelter that will enable Detroit Animal Care and Control to provide significantly enhanced care to the animals and service to the community's residents. This is not about MHS, this is about all the animals of Detroit".

Paul Huxley, Chair of the MHS Board of Directors said, "This is an incredible moment for the City of Detroit and, specifically, for the animals. A better Detroit Animal Care and Control is a better Detroit and this is an extraordinary step in that direction."

Report found animals to DACC at 313-224-6356. Injured, abused or neglected animals should be reported to the MHS Cruelty Investigation and Rescue Hotline at 313-872-3401. Owners in need of support or assistance are encouraged to contact MHS at 866-648-6263.

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