DETROIT -- There are fewer than 3,000 loose dogs on the streets of Detroit on any given day, according to preliminary data from a survey conducted by volunteers in September.
The estimate, which could drop to less than 1,000 later, is far lower than prior guesstimates of 50,000 stray dogs roaming the city's streets, organizers said.
"Detroit does not have 50,000 dogs on the streets. Detroit actually has a real problem with being good guardians for the pets in their care," said Tom McPhee, executive director of the World Animal Awareness Society, which conducted the American Strays Project.
Volunteers gathering data in Detroit found problems, such as dogs being dumped, not fed, tethered outside and abandoned. The data is to be used by stakeholders, such as humane and animal cruelty societies and Detroit animal control, to design programs to fix the problem.
The number of stray dogs found in the survey is far less than the 50,000 reported byDetroit Dog Rescue and other sources through the last several years, McPhee said. That 50,000 number was also reported in a story published in August by Bloomberg News, a national news service, and was mentioned in a 2012 Rolling Stone article that examined the issue and said 50,000 "seems quite inflated."
McPhee said if Detroit Dog Rescue believes there are 50,000 strays, it "should prove it." A message was left Monday with Detroit Dog Rescue.
Volunteers surveyed 23 of 42 regions in the city. He said they didn't document the breeds and didn't count cats, but McPhee said he believes there are 10 to 20 times more cats than dogs in Detroit.
He said the headline about the number of dogs in Detroit needs to change, and that education is key.
McPhee said video lesson plans are in the works for social studies curriculum for fifth-graders, including those in Detroit, to teach good guardianship skills. The idea is have the curriculum continue through high school.
McPhee said the survey project piloted in Detroit will continue annually. There are plans to expand it to 19 more cities and then nationally by 2015, with a count to be held every third weekend of September.
The cost of this phase of the project is $250,000, with $175,000 spent to date, McPhee said. He said the money has come from grants, foundations and other sources.
Kristen Huston, a team leader in southwest Detroit for All About Animals Rescue, said the number in the recent survey is a more accurate reflection of the 1,000 to 5,000 dogs in Detroit.