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Snow Melt Reveals Horrific Sight: Dozens of Dead Dogs

Wounds on the dead animals were consistent with underworld dog fighting. Others are being captured to be used as bait dogs in the illegal activity, an animal welfare group says.

By some estimates, as many as 50,000 dogs roam the streets of Detroit, many of them abandoned by impoverished families. But dog fighting is also a big problem, animal welfare advocates say. (Screenshot: DAWG YouTube video)
By some estimates, as many as 50,000 dogs roam the streets of Detroit, many of them abandoned by impoverished families. But dog fighting is also a big problem, animal welfare advocates say. (Screenshot: DAWG YouTube video)

Melting snow has revealed a long-standing problem in the metro Detroit area: dog fighting.

River Rouge Park, located along West Outer Drive between Plymouth Road and West Warren Avenue, apparently has become a dumping ground for dogs killed in illegal fighting, the Detroit Animal Welfare Group (DAWG), told WWJ, the CBS affiliate in Detroit.

The bodies of at least 28 large dogs, mostly pit bulls and Mastiff mixes, were found in the park, DAWG board member NIcole Litzelman said.

“Because of the heavy snowfall in the month of January, a lot of these deceased bodies were discarded there because it was easier to cover them up. Also, it was an unusually cold month where a lot of dogs froze outside or were left to starve to death,” Litzelman told WWJ’s Kathryn Larson. “This is just a small tip of the iceberg. Right now, since the snow is melting, I’m sure we’re going to find quite a few more bodies in the park.”

Litzelman said the bite wounds on the dogs are consistent with fighting, which is illegal in Michigan and elsewhere in the United States.

The problem is so pervasive in Michigan that in 2012,  Gov. Rick Snyder signed the toughest anti-dog-fighting legislation in the country, making the offense punishable by up to 20 years in jail and fines of $100,000. Dogfighting was a felony prior to the legislation, but carrying a four-year-jail sentence and a maximum fine of $50,000.

Those involved in dogfighting can’t put the bodies of the dogs, which fight to the death, in the trash because they fear being reported.

“A majority of them are due to illegal activities, such as fighting. It’s consistent with the bite wounds that are on the dogs. Most of them have either bled to death or have large gaping wounds that were never treated,” Litzelman said. “The park is well-know for dog fighting and has a high activity for drugs and other illegal activities.”

Other dogs may have been abandoned by families – non-human casualties of the Detroit’s bankruptcy and rapid population decline, from 1.8 million people to only 700,000. In a report last summer, Bloomberg said as many as 50,000 dogs are roaming the streets of Detroit.

Some of the dogs found at the sprawling 1,200-acre River Rouge Park are clinging to life and are being gathered to be used as bait dogs in fighting.

“We were just tipped off that there are some people down there trying to feed these dogs to use them as bait dogs,”

DAWG organized an event Saturday to cleanup carcasses and capture as many of the live dogs as possible, but  as poverty continues to roil Detroit, finding homes for the abandoned dogs is a problem left to animal welfare-groups to solve.

“The city is cash-strapped and is having issues as far as police coverage, so somebody has got to try to take ahold of the problem and do something,” Litzelman said.

If you’d like to help DAWG, visit dawghous.com or Facebook.
DianeKH March 24, 2014 at 03:46 PM
When I first became a licensed veterinary technician, I considered working for the Michigan Humane society in Detroit. I have been a member of this organization for about 30 years and for the most part, they do great work. I soon realized that I did not have the temperment for this kind of job. I would have probably been depressed and suicidal within a month. I am grateful to the humane societies and rescues that are on the front line, working to reduce these horrors. Dog fighting is about money and/ or perceived status. It does not happen in a vacuum. There are signs. Please visit the Humane Society of the United States. Their website has an article titled "Take Action To Stop Dogfighting." There are actions we can take and signs we can look for. I will have bad dreams tonight.
B. Dub March 24, 2014 at 04:16 PM
Suicidal? You're going to have bad dreams tonight? Did you take a drama course to get your license?
DianeKH March 24, 2014 at 04:58 PM
Dub-Dramatic perhaps, but yes this kind of stuff gives me bad dreams. And yes, if I had to watch dogs coming in every day that had been tortured and abused, I would find it very depressing. Suicidal?-OK a bit of a stretch... Of all the comments you could have made, why did you even bother with this one? Kind of "biting", (pun intended) and a bit lame. I became an LVT because of my love and concern for animals. And when I die I want to go to their heaven, not yours.
DianeKH March 24, 2014 at 05:02 PM
And Dub-I am an animal welfare person, not an animal rights person. My husband hunts and I love steak. But I have a huge problem with sickos that have a total disreagard for life.
B. Dub March 25, 2014 at 10:44 AM
Diane - first, animals don't have a heaven. They die - period. Second, I did not discount the depression. I understand that's real. Finally, for very personal reasons, it disturbs me when people talk about suicide so casually.

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