DETROIT (WWJ) - A man walking through a park on Detroit's west side came upon unspeakable horror: dozens of dead, frozen dogs.
Dead dogs curled into fetal positions, covered in scars and lacerations -- these are some of the graphic and grisly images taken at the River Rouge Park, along West Outer Drive between Plymouth Road and West Warren Avenue. CBS Detroit opted not to post the photos because of their graphic nature.
Detroit Animal Welfare Group (DAWG) board member Nicole Litzelman said at least 28 large dogs, mostly pit bulls and Mastiff mixes, were found only when the snow started to thaw.
"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. Also, it was an unusually cold month where a lot of dogs froze outside or were left to starve to death," Litzelman told WWJ's Kathryn Larson. "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."
Litzelman believes many of the dogs are innocent victims, forced into the ring by humans to fight other dogs to the death.
"A lot of people when they do these illegal activities, they can't put them out in the trash because even a lot of the trash collectors will report dead animals in the trash," she said. "Or much less, they don't want to draw any attention to the house where they're fighting the dogs illegally."
Litzelman said the park has become a dumping ground for dogs killed in fights.
"A majority of them are due to illegal activities, such as fighting. It's consistent with the bite wounds that are on the dogs. Most of them have either bled to death or have large gaping wounds that were never treated," she said. "The park is well-know for dog fighting and has a high activity for drugs and other illegal activities."
While some of the dogs were clearly involved in fighting activities, other appear to have been strays or worse -- dropped off by families that at one time might have loved them. One dog in particular was found dead inside its kennel, dumped along the side of the road.
"It's just very sad and disturbing to see. I mean, there's kids riding on buses in the city of Detroit that pass by these dead dogs every day, just laying in the park. People walk through the park, they drive through the park, they see these animal carcasses laying all around. It's one of the biggest problems that we have right now in the city," she said.
Several of the dogs at the park are still alive, even clinging to life, but Litzelman said those dogs are in even more danger.
"The park is about 1,200 acres and there's so many animals running around down there, and there's actually some people who try to gather some of the dogs that have been discarded that are still alive, and they actually try to lure them and take them and use them for fighting as bait dogs," she said. "We were just tipped off that there are some people down there trying to feed these dogs to use them as bait dogs."
To raise awareness of the growing problem, DAWG has organized a walk-through at River Rouge Park, taking place at noon Saturday.
"We're going to have quite a few volunteers come out there and meet us, bring garbage bags and try to clean up some of the park by removing the deceased bodies, trying to see if we can catch some live dogs by setting up traps, and hopefully try to thwart off some of the illegal dog fighting activities going on in the park," she said. "The city is cash-strapped and is having issues as far as police coverage and animal control coverage so somebody has got to try to take ahold of the problem and do something."
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