Bite Busters : How to Deal With Dog Attacks

Paws for concern: Detroit fights to control
                  feral dogs

                  Associated Press, 05/15/98 02:37

                  DETROIT (AP) - Johnnette Rule knows all too well how her job can become
                  a real dogfight - like the day the 10-year veteran mail carrier had to use her
                  satchel to fend off a stray German shepherd.

                  Whether born on the streets or turned away from homes, wild dogs or their
                  predecessors once were pets. But when they run and breed in groups, they
                  cause a lot of grief.

                  ``We've had carriers who have had plugs torn out of their arms and legs, many
                  who have had their clothes torn by dogs,'' Ms. Rule said. ``It's really ugly.''

                  And it's not just in Detroit.

                  In March, an Illinois farmer received $1,300 from the state, compensation for
                  26 pigs killed in 1993 by a pack of wild dogs. Dogs killed two ostriches in
                  Oregon, fatally attacked a $15,000 horse in Tennessee and joined coyotes in
                  killing livestock and pets in Colorado.

                  In the past year, a small pack of stray dogs attacked and injured a
                  Massachusetts boy on his way to a school bus stop. In Oklahoma City,
                  front-porch mail delivery in some neighborhoods was halted after dogs
                  attacked several carriers.

                  Postal Service spokesman Mark Saunders says dogs attack 2,700 letter
                  carriers across the country each year, costing taxpayers about $25 million for
                  medical expenses and substitute carriers. He didn't know how many of those
                  attacks were by wild dogs.

                  In Detroit, the dog menace is considered so bad that the city's postmaster
                  threatened to stop delivering mail to some areas.

                  ``A lot of people are saying that because of the dogs, they're sometimes
                  trapped in their homes,'' said Donyale Stephen, an assistant city ombudsman.

                  Of the top 10 complaints to the office, roaming dogs were third this year. Dogs
                  had never before been on the 24-year-old list.

                  The city's Animal Control Division recently got four new vehicles to boost its
                  dog-catching ability.

                  ``We've been trying to get as many dogs off the street as we can,'' Donald
                  Hamel, the animal control office's supervisor, said Thursday.

                  He said his division has made arrangements for two more animal control
                  officers, though they weren't included in the budget, to bring the total to 15.
                  They are responsible for 144 square miles in the city of 1 million people.

                  Officers can snare individual dogs, but have to work as a group to round up
                  packs that generally are drawn together by a female dog in heat.

                  ``We can have packs of dogs up to 20. We can't always get them all,'' Hamel

                  Though Detroit's exact population of feral dogs isn't known, evidence of the
                  crackdown is. Animal control workers caught 919 dogs from July through
                  September of last year.

                  Through this year's first three months, crews caught 1,532.

                  In January, city Postmaster Lloyd Wesley Jr. asked Mayor Dennis Archer and
                  the City Council to take action with ``grave urgency.'' Since meeting with
                  Detroit health officials, Wesley said the problem has eased, thanks partly
                  animal control's increased efforts.

                  Nevertheless, the issue still lacks priority in terms of funding. In his budget
                  proposal for next year, Archer has rejected a request by Hamel's office for
                  two more workers and the health department's call for $600,000 more for
                  animal control.

                  What's more, city plans for widespread razing of abandoned buildings where
                  dogs seek shelter could force more of them onto the streets, observers say.
                  And an outbreak of distemper - a highly contagious virus that makes dogs
                  deranged and hasn't been seen locally since the 1980s - only adds to potential
                  problems: the animals already might carry rabies.

                  ``Unfortunately, a lot of people in this city haven't gotten the message that their
                  dogs should not run loose,'' said Sherry Silk, director of the Michigan Humane
                  Society's Detroit office.

                  Yet the dogs still roam. In her Detroit neighborhood, Lovie Barrow, 80, sees
                  dog packs prowling so often that ``I've gotten used to them, I guess.''

                  In a rundown garage across the street, she spots a gaunt, mangy German
                  shepherd and two other strays.

                  Said Barrow: ``When the dogs are around, I seldom go outside unless I'm going
                  to my car.''

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