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Murrysville officials to meet with dogcatcher before renewing contract

| Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012, 8:58 p.m.

Two Murrysville councilmen plan to meet with dogcatcher Gary Hoffman before the municipality considers renewing the Delmont man's contract.

Jeff Kepler and Ron Summerhill volunteered to meet with Hoffman, owner of Hoffman Kennels, to discuss a series of addendums to Hoffman's standard contract that Murrysville officials will consider this fall.

The pair said they want to tour Hoffman's facilities, which are being remodeled to add space to house additional animals and to add heated floors.

“I want to see his facility and what he does first-hand,” said Summerhill, who suggested the idea. “We'll ‘git er done.' Let's do a scheduled visit.”

Hoffman Kennels came under fire in several local municipalities earlier this year when a group led by a Murrysville man complained about the kennel's service.

Some residents said Hoffman wouldn't release dogs during the weekend and was rude and abrasive.

The group also took umbrage with Hoffman euthanizing dogs that can't be placed in no-kill shelters.

Chief administrator Jim Morrison said he investigated the allegations against Hoffman with the state dog officer for Westmoreland County, Bruce Kinnick. Morrison said the officer reported that Hoffman Kennels is “a professional operation, with well-maintained kennels.”

Several nearby municipalities have renewed contracts with Hoffman, including Penn Township and Apollo.

Jeannette Council is set to vote on a contract renewal next month.

Morrison said there are no animal service providers in the area. When the municipality last solicited bids for the service in 2005, Hoffman was the only business to respond.

The municipality pays Hoffman $360 per month to patrol the community at least three days each week for stray dogs. Any response outside of normal business hours costs the municipality $55 per call.

Morrison suggested six conditions to Hoffman's contract :

• All unlicensed dogs must be kept for at least 72 hours

• All dogs must be scanned for a microchip and, if one is found, the owner must be notified within 48 hours

• Hoffman must obtain owner contact information for licensed dogs immediately and contact the owners within 48 hours

• Hoffman must try to place dogs with one of at least five shelters in Allegheny or Westmoreland counties

• Hoffman must notify police within 24 hours when he picks up a dog in the municipality

• A monthly report must be submitted with the invoice for payment

Several members of council suggested changes to Morrison's recommendations. Council President Joan Kearns suggested requiring all dogs be kept at least 72 hours, not including Friday evening until Monday morning. Kepler agreed.

“We need to try to give the dog owner as much time as possible to get their dog,” Kepler said. “If he's not open, my dog could be gone.”

Mayor Bob Brooks questioned what would happen if an owner was on vacation, while Kepler asked how Hoffman determines if a dog is in good health.

Brooks suggested municipal staff consult with the Western Pennsylvania Human Society in Pittsburgh to discuss what limitations and conditions are reasonable to require of a dogcatcher.

“Let's see what seems right and lawful,” Brooks said.

“What happens at Hoffman's could happen somewhere else. He's made an effort in the past few years to be a no-kill, but that's where the Humane Society could come in.”

Daveen Rae Kurutz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8627, or dkurutz@tribweb.com.

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