Detroit police said Monday they are investigating reports of more than two dozen dead dogs found at River Rouge Park, but that claims in the media that the 1,200-acre park is a dumping ground for dogs killed in illegal fighting were “highly embellished” and the result of a misunderstanding.
Detroit Police Sgt. Michael Woody told MLive Detroit that police and other volunteers searched the park Monday and found fewer than five dogs that didn’t appear to have died in a fighting ring, but instead “just didn’t survive the winter.”
Nicole Litzelman, a board member of the Detroit Animal Welfare Group (DAWG), told told CBS News Detroit that the bodies of at least 28 dogs, mostly pit bulls and Mastiff mixes, were found in the park.
Woody said a misunderstanding occurred when a city employee told a DAWG member that the Detroit public works department, which is charged with picking up dead animals, had 28 pending calls to pick up dead dogs, including some at River Rouge Park.
He alleged that DAWG’s Litzelman had “twisted” that statement to infer all the carcasses were found at the park as snow began to melt.
“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," Litzelman told CBS News Detroit. "Also, it was an unusually cold month where a lot of dogs froze outside or were left to starve to death ... 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.”
Last summer, Bloomberg said as many as 50,000 dogs are roaming the streets of Detroit, a non-human casualty of poverty and bankruptcy. But a new Michigan State University placed that number at closer to 7,500.
“We at DPD investigate all crimes, including dog fighting,” he said. “We have a very soft heart and a lot of us are avid dog lovers, so we will go after these criminals with nothing short of 100 percent.”