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Vacant McKeesport house is home for dog

| Friday, May 3, 2013, 4:36 a.m.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
Through the window of an enclosed porch at 1502 Centennial St. in McKeesport, a pit bull mix can be seen in its apparent living quarters. The home is not occupied, but the dog appears to be occasionally cared for by an unknown party.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
Ken Ferree, McKeesport's contracted dog law enforcement officer, placed a business card with an urgent message in the porch doorknob at 1502 Centennial St., where a dog is living without apparent owners.

A pit bull mix appears to be living alone in a McKeesport home that is slated for demolition.

Neighbors said residents of 1502 Centennial St. moved out approximately a month ago, but left behind a dog.

“The person who lived here said she sold the dog to someone else,” a woman who asked not to be identified said on Thursday afternoon. “Whoever she sold it to keeps it in there and comes to walk it and feed it. That place is just a big dog house now, I guess.”

Neighbors reported to McKeesport police that the dog is living in an enclosed front porch. They told authorities that the dog does not have consistent access to food or water.

McKeesport police Chief Bryan J. Washowich confirmed that his department received reports of the dog's living conditions and that officers contacted the city's dog law enforcement officer Ken Ferree to investigate.

Ferree visited the home, where a condemnation notice is visible through the porch window, and placed a business card with an urgent message in the porch doorknob.

“Has this dog been abandoned? Call at once,” the note demanded.

The dog does not appear to be in imminent danger or distress, Ferree said after observing the dog through the window and talking with neighbors.

“The dog is not starving. There are indications that someone is coming here to feed and water the dog,” he said. “It is not emaciated. It is not injured.”

While he said he believes it may be morally or ethically questionable to house a dog in an abandoned structure, Ferree said the law prevents a dog enforcement officer or a humane officer from taking an animal that isn't in immediate harm.

“While we may want to act immediately in a situation like this, we can't,” Ferree said. “We have to follow the letter of the law, and everything here is on hold until Monday.”

Humane officers are expected to follow through with the investigation early next week to determine if a search warrant is needed to rescue the animal.

“I will be checking back here to see if my business cards have been moved or if anyone appears to have entered the house,” Ferree said.

Cases like this aren't uncommon, Ferree said, estimating six or more animals per month are found living in otherwise vacant homes in Mon Valley communities.

“When people move, the dog is often the first thing to go to a new house or the last thing to leave the old house,” he said. “Or you have kids who can't keep dogs at home, buying them and keeping them in abandoned homes in their neighborhood.”

Mayor Michael Cherepko said it's important to pursue demolition for dilapidated homes where there is no reasonable interest in renovating them, so as to create new development opportunities and to prevent hazardous situations.

“Anytime that you have an abandoned home, it becomes a public safety issue,” Cherepko said. “This is one reason why we should address these issues before they lead to a crime, a fire or an unfortunate situation like this.”

Jennifer R. Vertullo is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1956, or