Detroit AC: Quit Focusing on the Dog You Love and Just Get Some Other Dog

Detroit ACOs, whom you may remember from such exploits as Dragging Dead Dogs Whose Guts are Falling Out in Front of Neighborhood Children, are once again dazzling the kiddies with their animal handling skills.

Jenga, as pictured on
Jenga, as pictured on

Last week, local media reported that a friendly stray dog who was beloved by children and teachers at the school where the dog had been hanging out, was captured and hauled away by Detroit ACOs while the kids pleaded for the dog they named Jenga to be spared.  The incident was so upsetting to everyone who witnessed it that a fifth grade class is writing a letter to Detroit AC to express their feelings.

Teachers at the school immediately began making calls to various city offices to try to keep Jenga from being killed but all they got was the runaround.  One teacher offered to adopt Jenga outright or at least place her name on the dog as an interested party but AC refused, citing the 4 day holding period.  And she won’t be allowed to adopt Jenga from the pound after the holding period either:

[Harry] Ward [head of AC] said the department must keep stray dogs without identification for four business days. If they are unclaimed, animal control evaluates the dog. Dogs fit for adoption are made available to the Michigan Humane Society; the rest are put down.

The Humane Society visits Detroit Animal Control weekly and decides which dogs to accept into its adoption program, Ward said. The animal control department does not run an adoption program, he said, conceding that an outdated website says otherwise.

Oh swell.  Also, shame on those kids and their teachers for falling in love with a stray dog and caring what happens to her:

Ward suggested those concerned about Jenga’s fate adopt a dog from the Humane Society to make room for more dogs in the adoption program.

“Do something for all the dogs, instead of getting focused on the one dog,” Ward said.


“I know to the world this one dog is important. I want the world to know there are 38 other dogs that will come in over one or two days,” Ward said. “People need to pull back and look at the bigger issue.”

The bigger issue is that the head of Detroit AC doesn’t understand that dogs are not interchangeable widgets.  Pets are family.  Humans bond with them.  It’s actually the kind of thing AC should be encouraging, especially with children.

Unfortunately for Jenga, her only hope at this point seems to be a transfer to another pet killing facility.  Perhaps media attention will help save Jenga from the fate of so many other stray dogs in Detroit whom rescue groups say they try to help but must battle AC in order to do so.

(Thanks Clarice and Karen for the links.)

22 thoughts on “Detroit AC: Quit Focusing on the Dog You Love and Just Get Some Other Dog

  1. Oh God, what a system! It’s designed to kill. And they fret about people wanting to adopt like it’s a major inconvenience. Assholes.

    1. I remember Ace, too — in fact, when I read this story, he was my first thought, and I hoped that Jenga wouldn’t be killed as he was.

    2. Remember, too, that Matthew Pepper is the one in charge now at MHS (and we have his compatriot here at Ingham County AC – that’s a whole different story). The only thing that will save Jenga is the publicity. How many more will die because they don’t have that? Too damn many.
      DAC is not only a killing factory, animals taken there are not well treated, nor do they do any adoptions at all. According to comments by some of the Detroit area rescuers, Ward is the devil in uniform. Sounds like he’s not doing anything to convince people otherwise.
      Detroit Mayor Duggan is working hard to turn the city around. I wonder how he feels about this?

  2. Last I heard the executive pay structure at MHS includes performance pay. In other words, there is financial incentive for MHS to declare animals as “unadoptable”. Or, at the very least it makes MHS look better than they are.

    The more animals deemed unadoptable, the less that have to be saved. Thus, it’s a lot easier to have a higher save rate on paper. And, that’s probably how management gets their bonus.

  3. My local “humane” society does this too. There are pets that make it into the Adoption Program and those that don’t. Plenty of adoptable pets do not make it into the Adoption Program and they never get a chance; the public is not allowed to see the Non-Adoption animals and they are killed. I used to volunteer there and I was horrified. And you should see the old-school director rave about his fantastic Adoption Program!

    1. I think of these animals as the Disappeared. They’re in a kind of limbo. Like people who are disappeared by paramilitary groups in third-world countries.

      I don’t know if NYACC still does this, but each night they used to remove from their adoptables website any animal they planned to kill the next morning. The animal was still alive, but that was just a technicality. They had become Disappeared, and would soon be dead.

      In some “shelters,” the Disappeared are actually imprisoned behind locked doors, to make sure the public has no access to them. Central California Pets Alive exposed this practice at the Stockton Animal Shelter.

      To me, transparency in the animal shelter system means in part that each and every animal would be visible to the public through online listing, so that the Disappearing can no longer happen.

  4. Seems there’s a MAJOR DISCONNECT between how AC sees dogs that come in and how the general public sees dogs. When the head of AC says, ““Do something for all the dogs, instead of getting focused on the one dog,” he seems to be implying that dogs are interchangeable (like widgets), and which one you get isn’t as important as getting any that are available. Mind-numbing. Maybe he has been on the job too long and has shut off his emotions in regards to animals?

  5. This is all too common in animal control. So many ACOs hate people so much they will be spiteful to the extent they would rather kill the animal than help it find a home. Oh, sure, their excuse will sound plausible: i.e., we deemed the dog dangerous by some totally random, completely unscientific and subjective method, just so you CAN’T have what you want. You know, public safety and all. But the assessment will have little or no basis in fact and by the way, the dog was apparently safe enough to play with the children before animal control showed up. But we’ll come in to teach “you kids” empathy, because clearly you kids have no empathy if you fell in love with a homeless stray dog, right??? Wrong.

    I am unfortunately no longer surprised when I read cases of dogs taken away from perfectly good homes and owners by animal control organizations who are CONVINCED the owners are bad and the dog is in danger. Not because of the dog’s condition, but for what the owner LOOKS like, or WHERE they LIVE. Owners that have droopy pants or dreds that live in the hood or in Baltimore can’t possibly be kind, loving owners, right?

    After all, no animal control organizations WANT to kill dogs, right?

  6. So I just accidentally read this post again and I’m more angry than when I first read it. Y’know, I tell the Prince George’s County council members and their staffers about the people — the kids — whose have their dogs ripped away from them just for being pit bulls – allegedly. I tell those staffers how these kids are forever scarred by having their beloved pets taken away by the government, by a law that YOU can change, but refuse to, and how much these children HATE and resent the government for it. Some of those legislators and their staffers have had the NERVE to say, “its just a dog. They can have a dog, they just cant have THAT one.”

  7. I see no reason Detroit AC should not have given Jenga to the teacher who offered to take her. Detroit AC has no adoption program and kills all the dogs not pulled by its fellow pet killing facility, MHS. Any opportunity to keep a dog out of that broken system should be welcomed by AC.

    When I first met Jade, she had been on the wrong side of a truck and the local ACO had been called to come get her. Once I offered to take her, he couldn’t have been more pleased or more helpful. He filled out a form to document the dog’s description, location, and my info and explained he would list her with the pound’s other animals for the holding period in case anyone was looking for her. He said to check back after the holding period to make sure no one had claimed her. Simple. It kept a dog out of the pound, got the dog into a home, and still had her available for an owner reclaim if anyone came forward. (No one did, as most readers know!)

    1. This recently happened to my parents. They were driving at night in a residential neighbourhood and a small fuzzy dark dog ran in front of their car. No tags, collar or tattoo, but obviously he had a home somewhere, he was fixed and well-fed. Surprisingly, the dog seemed shocked but not obviously hurt, they prayed that he had been small enough to have passed under the car, and just had the wind knocked out of him. They were worried he had unseen internal injuries. They loaded him up into the car, and drove across the city to the big name all night Animal Emergency Hospital.

      Once they got there, they were in for a shock themselves. They asked a few questions, loaded him onto a gurney and took him into the back room. According to city procedure, as a stray, he was now impounded by animal control. Due to privacy bylaws, they couldn’t release any further information about the dog to my parents, not even the nature of his injuries so they could contribute to his medical bills.

      My parents had been struck by his similarity to their own small dogs, especially my mother who had held him on her lap while they drove to the hospital. She said he just kept looking up at her, with such a steady gaze, like he was trusting her to help him. He tried to struggle back into her arms as she put him down. She asked about adopting him if no one came forward, and said that she was willing to provide help for his recovery/rehabilitation.

      But animal control doesn’t provide adoption services. If his owner didn’t come forward to pay the medical bills and fines, at the end of his stray hold, he would be made available for rescue agencies to pull. They wouldn’t provide her with any more information or take hers. Of course, they left unsaid that he would be euthanized if there wasn’t a rescue agency willing step up and take on his medical bills.

      My mom asked if she could call tomorrow, and see if he made it through the night.

      They told her that they would be unable to release that information.

      I couldn’t think of a worse experience than hitting a dog. But this was worse.

      1. Outrageous! And frankly, the “We can’t tell you if he’s still alive in the morning” makes me suspicious that they don’t treat strays, they either kill them or at best, leave them to suffer and if they survive, whatevs. These scenarios (good sam wanting to help an injured stray) happen regularly, especially in large cities with concentrated areas of dense population and heavy traffic. There is no excuse for the local AC outfits to not have protocols (that protect life) in place for handling them.

      2. So sorry your parents, obviously compassionate and caring people, were forced to go through this nightmare. I think there must be a special hell for some of these ‘people’ who run places like this.

    2. But, silly lady, that would mean that they actually cared about the animals who end up in their cesspool killing facility. That couldn’t be further from the truth at DAC. Far as they are concerned the only “win” is if the animals cease to exist. Nothing surprises me anymore, although a lot really sickens me.

  8. I’d like to help Ward restate his quote: “I know to the world this one dog is important, BECAUSE EVERY ONE IS. I want the world to know there are 38 other dogs that will come in over one or two days, AND WE WOULD LOVE HELP FINDING LOVING HOMES FOR EACH AND EVERY ONE, GET IN TOUCH AT (INSERT CONTACT INFO HERE)” Ward said. “WE NEED CONCERNED CITIZENS TO JOIN US IN SAVING EVERY LIFE.” WE NEED TO LEAD THE COMMUNITY IN SAVING LIVES AND TO ADDRESS the bigger issue TOGETHER. IN THE MEANTIME, JENGA IS GOING TO LIVE WITH THE TEACHER THAT OFFERED TO ADOPT.” How would that have been?

  9. I found a dog in Detroit and took it to the Detroit Humane Society. She was such a sweet dog and friendly. If I didn’t already have 2 dogs, I would have taken her. I asked that if they were going to put her down to let me know and I would come and get her out. They said, “No, once you release claim on her we cannot tell you anything about this dog.” Why not? Why wouldn’t you tell me if I wanted to save the dog and you were just putting it down for space reasons? Or even if the owner claimed it…I would be happy about that. I will never take another dog there or make any donation to the Humane Society. I just do not like their “rules”.

  10. Only Way to change policy is change leadership. Ward NEEDS to go! And the new directors at MHS also need to go. I had a conversation with Mathew where we talked about untreatable, stating if they have it.. Hey will get it again. Yep, he things mange is untreatable. Even though hundreds of my foster had mange and most self cured once given good food and a safe place. Also putting down all Parvo pups even though it’s 80% treatable. Human society get first pick of DAC dogs, the highly adoptable or those with sad stories that will make them the most money in fundraising. It really so so distirbing that so many people are blind or scammed. I hope this dog can be saved and hearts of children not crushed!

  11. Rhetorical question here… If the teachers were so concerned about the welfare of this dog in the first place, then why didn’t someone, namely the teacher who stepped up AFTER DAC took her, take her in before DAC got involved? Why was she still a stray? She was in danger living on the streets. I certainly don’t condone Harry Ward’s behavior and attitude, but this dog was a stray and as a stray, unlicensed dog she was in danger not only from DAC, but from cars, people, other animals, things she might eat; any number of things. Why are the teacher more concerned about her now than they were then?

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