This team rescues Detroit's most destitute dogs and transforms them into model family companions.
Detroit Pit Crew (DPC) is not your average rescue. This team of dedicated dog heroes spend the majority of their time out on the streets, saving dogs from the most horrific conditions possible. Some are found near death, and many are emaciated, ill, and badly wounded. In less than three years, the DPC has rescued over 1,000 dogs, and transformed them into wonderful family companions.
We were fortunate enough to get an exclusive interview with the founder of Detroit Pit Crew, Theresa Sumpter, who told us the story of how DPC was created, and their mission to change the lives of Detroit dogs.
Their story is truly inspiring.
How was Detroit Pit Crew created, and what was the original goal of the rescue?
“Detroit Pit Crew was started after I was asked to assist a Detroit Police officer with securing an injured, abandoned stray living on Six Mile in a very dangerous area. When I arrived, I saw not one, but many strays running around and I asked the officer about the dogs and she explained that they had once been owned, but then had been left behind by their owners. I decided immediately that a street crew needed to be formed to rescue these destitute dogs of Detroit.
Our mission was and still is to rescue the destitute dogs of Detroit from the streets of Detroit.”
What is Detroit Pit Crew’s role in the rescuing process before fostering and adoption?
“Detroit Pit Crew is a street crew of rescuers that responds to calls, messages, or personal messages about dogs living on the streets of Detroit that are injured, sick, or pregnant. Most of our tips about destitute dogs come from the citizens of Detroit, or law enforcement.
We have many tools that we utilize such as three commercial traps, several snappy snares, and several catch poles in order to safely secure dogs that may not be able to be hand caught. We also have several experienced dog handlers and trappers on our crew that are able to safely catch these dogs. Once we have secured a dog in need, that dog is immediately taken to one of the veterinary hospitals that we use, where they receive immediate care. Once these dogs are medically cleared and fully vetted, we have partner organizations, who we transfer the dogs out to, in order for them to be adopted. All of our transfer partners are carefully screened and they sign contracts with us ensuring the safety and well being of the dogs we are transferring to them.”
What are some of the situations you find rescue dogs in, and the individual challenges you face with those dogs?
“Dog fighting is by far one of most frustrating and difficult things we face in the city.On January 11, we rescued 14 dogs out of a dog fighting house with the help of Detroit Police and we have yet to see any prosecution against the perpetrators. We really only had enough evidence to possibly get charges of animal cruelty and neglect.
We do investigate animal cruelty. Last year we had seven successful prosecutions for various type of animal abuse. However, to prosecute dog fighters can be very difficult. If you aren’t able to gather the correct evidence, it makes prosecution and conviction impossible.”
What types/breeds of dogs are more commonly found on the streets in your area? Do you believe this is linked to puppy mills, dogfighting, etc?
“We find a lot of ‘Heinz 57 Detroit Specials’ : a little mix of everything. Obviously, we find quite a few pit mixes, but we also rescue a lot of mastiff breeds, shepherd breeds, and the list goes on. I would say that most of the backyard breeders in Detroit are grabbing whatever dogs they can get and breeding them with any other available dog. [That’s how] we have our Heinz 57 Detroit Specials. A little bit of a lot of breeds.
I don’t think that there are a lot of puppy mills. However, there is definitely a lot of backyard breeding going on in Detroit. And yes, most of the dog fighters that we encounter are breeding also. They breed their own bait dogs, as well as there own fighting dogs.”
What is the most rewarding part of rescuing dogs?
“Seeing the dogs from the start, usually in horrible conditions and heartbroken, and then seeing them again after they have healed and been treated. Some of our before and after pictures are amazing! It’s like a beautiful transformation from destitute to happy and healthy.”
What is the most challenging part of rescuing dogs?
“I would say the most challenging part of rescuing dogs is finding placement for all the dogs we get called about. The veterinary hospital we use the most doesn’t have the capacity to board that many dogs. So, once they fill up, we are limited on the number of dogs we can rescue. We always run out of space quickly and having to pick and choose which dog is in the most desperate situation is a very difficult thing.
Because there are just so many dogs in Detroit that are sick, injured, or pregnant, it can be very overwhelming some days when we are being bombarded with calls, but only have places for so many.”
What was your most memorable dog rescue?
“I would say the most memorable rescue would be Precious. We received a call about a dog that had been used for bait, beaten, and left for dead in a trash can. We rushed to the location and were there within a few minutes of receiving the call. When I saw Precious I thought she was dead. Then I touched her and she moved.
It was extremely cold outside. So, we immediately threw a blanket on her and rushed her to the veterinary hospital, where she received treatment. Eventually, she recovered and got a wonderful home.”
What do you believe is causing the epidemic of homeless and abused animals?
“I would say irresponsible pet owners and the lack of mandatory spay and neuter ordinances have lead to this problem. In Detroit, there are many organizations that offer low cost, or no cost spay or neuter. However, many people just choose not to spay or neuter their pet. Then their dog might run off to mate and never return, or come back with puppies that end up being given away to repeat the cycle. We also have those people, who are pimping out there dogs in lieu of getting a job, to make a small profit. When those dogs or puppies get to be too much they simply turn them loose.
We find many situations in which people move to different homes where their pets aren’t allowed or it’s too much trouble to bring the pet. So, they simply let them go to fend for themselves or dump them at other locations in the city to fend for themselves. It’s hard to convince people in a city such as Detroit to value the life of an animal, when they often don’t value human life.”
How do you believe DPC is making a difference in this situation?
“We have rescued a total of 1,052 dogs from the streets of Detroit since we began in October of 2013. That’s 1,052 dogs off the streets, living happier and healthier lives, and that will not be running the streets, or being able to reproduce and create more dogs to suffer on the streets.
I know we are making a difference. We alter the lives of these animals and I am always happy to know we have provided a brand new, happier life for those dogs that we have rescued.
Our dogs go from destitute to Happily-Ever-After!”
In Fall of 2015, Detroit Pit Crew was notified of 13 hound dogs, including six puppies, who were abandoned on a property in what appeared to be a breeding operation. The dogs were emaciated, ill, and in need of medical attention.
Detroit Pit Crew Dog Rescue’s story is inspiring, to say the least. They rescue dogs from the worst conditions imaginable and give them a second chance at life in a loving home. Thanks to Detroit Pit Crew, over 1,000 lives have been saved.
Thank you, Detroit Pit Crew, for all your hard work, and for making a difference in these animal’s lives.