Detroit hires ten new animal control officers in wake of girl's mauling death

The city of Detroit is expanding its animal control department by hiring ten new officers in the wake of August's fatal mauling of a 9-year-old girl and numerous reports of dogs running loose in the city.

The new officers haven't been sworn in yet, but are being trained to respond to calls and hopefully prevent tragedies like what happened to Emma Hernandez. She was the little girl mauled to death in southwest Detroit.

Her death galvanized the community who are questioning how much has been done and what needs to be done.

"Ten, maybe 20 more. I don't think it's gonna be enough," said neighbor Henry Santana. 

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With the ten new animal control officers, the city will now have 19 on the streets by the end of the month. The move had been in the works before Emma was killed. The city says it was not a response to her death. 

The city's chief operating officer, Hakim Berry, says they've taken steps to address what happened to Emma but also need help.

"One thing is, we have stretched provisions of the ordinance as much as we can without getting ourselves in legal trouble and captured dogs that appear to be dangerous or vicious," Barry said.

"We really have to get the reports. We really need - (we're reliant on) the people that are making the reports to work with animal control,"
Barry said. We need witnesses to cooperate with us so that we can go and capture the dogs." 

Barry also said that, before Emma was mauled, there were no reports about the dogs.

"There was not a reason to capture the dogs. The last report we had, was over a year ago. There wasn't anything recently about the dogs at that home," he said. "We have 139 square miles in the city of Detroit and that instance of a dog getting out of a yard and trying to capture that moment - it's hard to do."

Barry said the city is looking at increasing penalties for owners not securing their dogs properly.

The city says it had 260 reported bites for the first 7 months of this year - down about three percent from 2018 and a drop of six percent from 2017.