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Dogtown: Detroit's latest challenge is thousands of stray dogs

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Detroit's recent bankruptcy has exacerbated an old problem: stray dogs. A new Bloomberg report estimates there could be as many as 50,000 stray dogs roaming the streets of Detroit, roughly one for every 14 citizens. The problem is particularly severe because of the city's large number of abandoned homes, which the head of animal control says is "as if you designed a situation that causes dog problems." Detroit currently houses only three animal shelters, which collectively take in roughly 15,000 animals a year, but as many reports have shown, the meager supply is dwarfed by the sheer number of stray dogs now roaming the streets.

Some have disputed the accuracy of the 50,000 figure. One observer notes that, if it were true, "there wouldn't be a dumpster or restaurant/grocery store alley that wasn't overrun with scavenging dogs." Still, it's hard to deny the underlying problem, as cuts to animal control have left just four employees to cover the entire city. The problem has grown so severe that postal carriers have been forced to cancel service to many areas, and prepare themselves with mace when visiting others. As one puts it, "it's like Chihuahuaville."

Similar numbers of strays have been reported in other cities like Los Angeles and New Orleans, but Detroit's financial woes — the city currently faces a $400 million yearly operating deficit — make it particularly difficult to tackle there.