City’s recent Animal Care & Control changes already delivering improvements, exceeding initial goals

Rendering of the new DACC facility
  • Live release rate including adoptions, tickets issued and calls responded to have all exceeded initial goals a year sooner than expected
  • Leaders still working to increase dog licensing and reduce bites
  • Renderings of upcoming facility expansion released

Detroit’s Animal Care & Control (DACC) operation is exceeding early improvement goals set forth after recent organizational changes were announced, according to Director of Animal Care Mark Kumpf, Detroit Health Department.

The City announced late last year the reorganization of Detroit Animal Care & Control with animal care, part of the Detroit Health Department, and the control side, part of General Services Division. The two divisions will run separately but collaboratively. Animal Care now handles sheltering, treatment, licensing and adoptions, while Animal Control responds to citizen complaints, captures stray animals and tickets animal owners who are in violation of City ordinances.

Under the leadership of Kumpf and Assistant Director of Animal Control Lori Sowle, the following improvements have been made:

  • Live Release Rate: At the end of 2019, the average monthly Live Release Rate which includes adoptions, transfers to Animal Care partners or returning stray dogs to their owners, was 77%, exceeding the goal of 70% by the end of 2020. Kumpf’s new 2021 goal is a live release rate of at least 90%, which would rank Detroit’s facility as a “no kill shelter.” A significant reason for the improved live release rate has been the increase in adoptions. Since Kumpf was hired, Animal Care has held numerous adoption fairs that have placed hundreds of animals in new homes. Several adoptions are planned this month including the Be My Furry Valentine adoption event on February 14, 15 & 16.  Images of recent happy adoptions can be found on the DACC Facebook page.
  • Reduced Length of Stay: Following launch of a new ZERO DAY intake strategy average length of shelter stay decreased from 45 to 26 days. The City is only required by law to keep stray dogs for three days.  “While it creates some challenges for us to keep dogs longer than the law requires, we want to do everything we can to make sure the animals we take in get back into a caring home,” Kumpf said.
  • Increase in ticketing: Animal Control officers issued 740 tickets in 2019 to pet owners who were in violation of City ordinances, a more than 300% increase over the 184 tickets issued the previous year.  This far exceeds the initial goal of a 200% increase by the end of 2021. “Our first priority is making sure animals do not pose a threat to human safety,” said Sowle. “Increasing our enforcement is helping to send a message to dog owners that they will be held accountable for their pets.”
  • Increased responses by Animal Control Officers (ACO): In 2019, ACOs responded to 9,610 requests, a 53% increase from the 2018 total of 6,261. Animal Control’s goal had been a 25% increase by the end of 2021. “It used to be standard for citizens to not get a physical response for a day or two, which was completely unacceptable,” said Sowle. “Now we are responding in real time with the addition of 10 more ACOs, three more trucks on the road and expanded service hours.”

 

Shelter conditions improve, expansion plans unveiled
In addition to these improved metrics, the City’s animal shelter recently received its best inspection rating in years from the Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development (MDARD), which regulates animal shelters. Since that time Animal Care has hired two new veterinarians and improvements have been made to animal food storage housing areas.

“This is the best inspection we have had since the move to the former MHS facility,” said Kumpf. “Our remaining issues are all capital improvements that will be and only can be addressed by facility renovations that already are planned and budgeted this spring. Everything else that could be corrected, we did before the final report was issued. We were also in full reporting compliance for record keeping,” Kumpf added.

Officials today also released early renderings of a planned expansion of the DACC facility. The city is investing $3 million dollars to expand the shelter for capacity and improved operations for both care and control operations. Behind the current building, a new 9,000 square-foot structure will be built to provide space for administrative staff, the call center, surgery rooms and hospitality space for customers as they wait.

The current building will be used exclusively for animal care operations, allowing the facility to double its amount of space for the housing of dogs.  When completed next year, the shelter will be able to comfortably house 250 dogs, up from the current number of 150. 

 

Additional Improvements

  • The City recently launched a new hotline, (313) 922-DOGS, to field all non-emergency calls. Billboards promoting the new hotline are up at locations in neighborhoods across the city
  • Hours of operation expanded to 12 hours a day, seven days a week (7 a.m. to 7 p.m.)
  • Increased on the street coverage from 1-2 trucks to 4-5
  • The City also hired 10 animal control officers, 8 additional animal care technicians, 7 district investigators, three animal shelter assistants and one additional veterinarian.
  • Plans are also in the works to expand the shelter to accommodate and appropriately care for the animals, and expand working space for staff.

 

Challenges Remain
While many areas of DACC have improved significantly, Kumpf and Sowle said that there is still a lot of work to do in the areas increasing the number of dogs in the city that are licensed and reducing the number of dog bites. In 2019, the City saw a 10% increase in the number of licenses it issued, while Kumpf has a goal of a 100% increase by the end of 2021. The number of dog bite incidents has declined slowly over the past year from 460 in 2018 to 412 in 2019. The team’s goal is to reduce that number to about 200 incidents in 2021.

“We have set higher expectations for ourselves to ensure the safety of residents and well-being of animals in our care,” said Denise Fair, Chief Public Health Officer, Detroit Health Department. “We are starting to see real progress and we appreciate the support of our many partners, supporters and volunteers who have contributed in countless ways.”