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Cat control program drawing heavy criticism in N. Charleroi

| Friday, Oct. 5, 2012, 1:16 a.m.
Discussing cats in Cathy Lisovich's kitchen Thursday, Oct. 4, 2012, in North Charleroi are, from left, Robin Greco, Connie McGavitt, Kathy Arms and Lisovich.
Heather Hart | For The Valley Independent
Discussing cats in Cathy Lisovich's kitchen Thursday, Oct. 4, 2012, in North Charleroi are, from left, Robin Greco, Connie McGavitt, Kathy Arms and Lisovich.

Cathy Lisovich and other North Charleroi residents want to know why as many as 20 cats have turned up missing in the borough.

And she and other residents want answers.

In August, North Charleroi council hired Patsy Vince to handle animal control in response to complaints about stray cats. He started serving the borough in September.

Vince also serves as Donora's animal control officer and is the Donora Fire Company chief.

“We're being overrun with stray cats,” North Charleroi Mayor Lee Hall said. “They're all over the place, cats defecating all over yards. ... We responded to that by trying to do something to alleviate ourselves from that and hired Mr. Vince.”

Hall said he isn't sure how many complaints borough officials received but described it as “several.”

“When we hired him, we said he had to get rid of some of these cats,” Hall said. “If any cats were caught, they were to be taken to an animal shelter.”

Hall said the shelter was left to Vince's discretion.

That's where the problem lies for Lisovich and some other residents.

“We didn't even know they were going to start trapping the cats,” Lisovich said. “Now, we want to get in touch with (Vince) to find out where the cats are. But no one knows how to get in touch with him. Where did he take them? All that should be documented.”

Because of an uproar in the community, Hall said Vince's operation has been suspended pending a public meeting Oct. 15 at the Lock 4 Fire Department.

Lisovich said collared cats were among the roughly 13 taken away in cages.

“There were 13 that day, and I'm sure that wasn't the first day that they took cats from the town,” Lisovich added.

“We had a huge rat problem here; the cats helped with that. Now it's a problem with the cats. If you get rid of the cats, then the rat problem will come back. It's not the cats' fault. Something happened to those cats.”

Lisovich said there are other ways to solve the problem of cats defecating on private property.

“Citrus. Cats hate citrus,” she said. “If I don't want my cats to go somewhere, I use a citrus-scented air freshener. They won't go near it.

“If the cat is going in your mulch or near your flowers, throw some orange peels out there. The point is, there are other ways to solve the problem, more humane ways.”

“People need to be educated,” Robin Greco said. “They are being ignorant and don't want to take the initiative to do something else about it.”

Faith Bjalobok, of Peters Township, is a Duquesne University professor.

In her free time, she works to help stray cats with the Fluffy Jeans Fund for Felines organization.

She's been traveling to North Charleroi and other Mon Valley municipalities since September 2011 taking cats to Animal Friends in Pittsburgh. She also is associated with Neuter Scooter Mobile Cat Spay & Neuter Clinic, which provides low-cost sterilization, flea and ear mite treatment, and vaccinations.

She's interested in learning the fate of the felines picked up by Vince.

“I have a pretty good feeling I know what happened to them,” Bjalobok said. “He should have documentation for every animal he picked up, including names and/or descriptions. I want to know why no one there can tell anyone what happened to those cats.”

Bjalobok said the problem in North Charleroi is being blamed on the cats, but should fall on the transient population that has migrated throughout the Valley.

“I've come to know some of the population pretty quickly,” she said. “There's transient people that end up renting places and either don't pay their rent and leave, or they move to another town such as Donora.

“They either get a cat or take one in, and when they move, they leave the cat. It's not the cat's fault.”

Bjalobok said she wants to help the cats.

“They're not carrying disease, and people are saying that they're destroying the neighborhood,” she said. “It takes more than cats to destroy a neighborhood. It's a shame that I've been working there so long and someone complains, and now, all of a sudden, they're trapping and taking the cats.”

Bjalobok said she has contacted borough Solicitor Christine Cardinale to help develop a borough ordinance.

“I've suggested creating a nuisance complaint board,” Bjalobok said. “Get a group of residents and listen to the complaints and come up with a reasonable solution.”

Bjalobok said something's not right in North Charleroi.

“These people have a right to know what happened to those cats,” she said. “What tears me apart is that anyone in this state can be an animal control officer, but there are rules that need to be followed.

“The cats aren't at the Washington County Humane Society, because they're not taking in any right now. “They're not at Fallen Timber (in Elizabeth Township). People have a lot of money and emotion tied up in this; they deserve to know what happened to these cats.”

Vince did not return a call for comment.

Jeremy Sellew is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2667 or

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