Animal control an escalating problem in South Hills communities
By Stephanie Hacke
Published: Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013, 5:12 p.m.
Catching those at times atrocious smelling, pesky black and white mammals has become more of a burden in some South Hills communities.
It took two Brentwood public works crew members nearly half a day recently to trap and contain a skunk, borough Manager George Zboyovsky told council members as they debated the escalating problem of animal control in the community.
Yet, residents shouldn't have to pay for those calls to the borough, seeking removal of wild animals — such as skunks, groundhogs and deer carcasses — from their property, council members agreed.
“It's a wild animal. That person didn't invite the groundhog onto their yard and then say, ‘Hey, come get it now. I'm tired of playing with it,'” Councilman Marty Vickless said. “To charge someone for like a deer carcass, if a deer runs through their yard and dies, they have to pay to get it removed? That's kind of odd to me. That doesn't seem to make sense.”
The only fee that should be passed along to residents is for dogs or cats that were found wondering and retrieved by the borough personnel or animal control, officials said. That cost likely will be between $45 and $50 and will be set with the borough's annual fees, likely in November, the manager said.
Brentwood officials terminated their contract with McKees Rocks-based Triangle Pet animal control agency, in 2012 after the company's license was suspended by the Department of Agriculture and company leaders were charged with animal cruelty. They were found guilty in March.
Triangle Pet had provided animal control services to 58 municipalities, including Baldwin Borough, which also terminated its contract with the company last October.
Triangle Pet had been hired to patrol both Brentwood and Baldwin to look for stray dogs and cats and pick up road kill, borough managers from both communities said.
Since Triangle's termination, Brentwood police have used a dog pen in the department to place stray dogs that are picked up in the borough, Zboyovsky said. Dogs that were not retrieved by their owners after a day were taken to Dewalt Avenue-pet groomer Pampered Pet to be cared for, he said.
For wild animals, public works crews drop off traps at borough residences to catch groundhogs, skunks and other wildlife, free of charge, Zboyovsky said. Once the animals are caught, public works crews retrieve the traps and dispose of the animals.
This summer, there was a spike in calls to retrieve skunks and groundhogs in the borough, Zboyovsky said. Public works crews received as many as 12 such calls this summer, he said.
“It's just another activity that takes them off of road maintenance” or other jobs they normally would be doing, Zboyovsky said.
Brentwood police, too, have been finding more stray dogs, Zboyovsky said.
“One kennel wasn't enough anymore,” he said.
Zboyovsky said he sent out requests for proposals for animal control agencies four years ago. Triangle Pet was the only company to respond at that time.
An Internet search, this time, yielded a new agency, McKeesport-based Ferree Kennels that will provide the service on an as-needed basis, Zboyovsky said.
“If our police pick (a stray dog) up, we can call this person and they'll come retrieve it,” the manager said.
Ferree will begin working as soon as a contract is signed for $50 a call during working hours and $75 after hours, Zboyovsky said.
In Baldwin Borough, Manager John Barrett said he budgeted $1,000 next year for animal control.
Baldwin Borough police are contacted when stray dogs are found. The department has a kennel to keep the animals in, Barrett said. The police department also has a chip reader that can help to identify the animals, he said.
Council member Larry Brown questioned during a recent budget session if the $1,000 would be enough for 2014. Barrett said, “Yes.”
“Our experience has been people want to find their dogs,” Barrett said.
For wild animals, Baldwin Borough public works crews will handle the situation in many occasions, the manager said.
The borough also contacts Three Rivers Wildlife on an as-needed basis for assistance with the rare wild animal situation that municipal staffers cannot handle, Barrett said.
“It's good to have resources,” he said.
The municipality also has several traps that it loans to residents to catch wild animals.
Officials considered contracting with other services, Barrett said. While they likely would have provided a “high level of service” for animal control, they also came with a large price tag — something Baldwin officials didn't think was necessary for the municipality, he said.
Stephanie Hacke is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5818 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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