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Penn Hills

Penn Hills taking suggestions for a new animal control company

Dillon Carr
| Thursday, Oct. 4, 2018, 11:21 a.m.
Mr. Slobbers, a boxer mix, was a stray dog that Penn Hills residents rescued in May.
Mr. Slobbers, a boxer mix, was a stray dog that Penn Hills residents rescued in May.

In a social media post, a Penn Hills councilman says the municipality is taking suggestions for a new animal control company.

“In light of the recent problems with Hoffman Kennels, I would like some of your suggestions on a new company that could possibly bid the contract coming up in June of 2019,” John Petrucci said in a public Facebook group’s comment thread. Visit bit.ly/2zRFmeA to read the full statement.

The announcement came after residents complained Hoffman Kennels did not hold true to a promise to snap pictures of animals picked up in Penn Hills, an agreement Petrucci said was reached in early September between the municipality and Gary Hoffman, the kennel’s owner.

The municipality’s IT director would be in charge of publishing the information on the Penn Hills website and social media accounts, Petrucci said.

When dogs were picked up by Hoffman’s in late September, some descriptive information showed up on the websites, but no pictures.

Municipal manager Scott Andrejchak said it is premature to say the municipality will follow up with an official request for proposals or qualifications.

“I think it’s prudent to hear what the public says about certain things,” Andrejchak said. “It’s just information at this point. It gets evaluated by elected officials and staff has input, too. I think (Petrucci) is talking about accepting suggestions that would form the basis of the program we want to have in the future.”

Hoffman said he never agreed to take pictures of lost animals and is frustrated with Penn Hills residents who have said his kennel is inhumane.

“I have the nicest kennel in Pennsylvania for dog control,” Hoffman said. “The (Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement) came here … they checked my records, my kennel, everything was good. Everything I do is done by the books.”

Sending descriptions and pictures of lost animals to the municipality is not part of Hoffman’s contract with Penn Hills.

According to state Department of Agriculture records, Hoffman has received several complaints about his kennel dating back to 2006. The kennel was inspected recently, and there are no pending charges filed by the department against Hoffman, said Shannon Powers, press secretary at the state Department of Agriculture.

Several inspection reports have concluded Hoffman was complying with the state’s dog and animal cruelty laws.

When residents Brittney Norris and Elizabeth Taylor first approached the municipality in July, the pair called on council to cancel the municipality’s contract with the Delmont-based kennel, alleging Hoffman’s euthanizes healthy animals before the state-mandated 48-hour time period and that the kennel is unkempt.

At an August council meeting, the pair instead suggested council make amendments to the contract . Norris said she has not heard from Hoffman and is still interested in knowing how many dogs are picked up each month by the company and which are reclaimed or euthanized.

“It’s nice to know (Penn Hills) seems to want to replace them now, whereas before discussions hinged more around making amendments to the contract. I mean, I don’t know how much would actually change even if we did amend the contract. (Hoffman Kennels) seems to do what they want,” Norris said.

She said she hopes council will consider setting up a citizen’s review board to vet potential new companies or discuss establishing the municipality’s own kennel.

“That would make it super easy for people to claim animals, because they would be right there. But that’s a larger effort that would take time to set up,” she said.

Petrucci said bids are due 30 days before the municipality’s current contract with Hoffman’s, which expires on June 12, 2019. However, he instructed residents to not suggest McKeesport-based Sable Kennel because its kennel license was revoked.

Jill Erny, a Sable animal control officer, said the kennel lost its license in August due to poor building conditions.

“When we got the building, it wasn’t in great condition. The previous animal control officer used sub-par materials … so we’re doing repairs and painting,” Erny said, adding the kennel appealed the state’s revocation of its license and has a hearing in Harrisburg Dec. 4.

But even with its license back, Erny said, the kennel likely isn’t a good fit for Penn Hills, which has a long list of animal control needs. Sable Kennel already services 41 municipalities, she said.

Erny agrees with Norris that Penn Hills should consider establishing its own animal control service.

In the meantime, Petrucci, who described himself as an animal lover, said he agrees with the requests residents are asking of Hoffman Kennels.

“I don’t understand why (Hoffman) can’t take a picture. It takes two seconds. That’s all it takes. Why they couldn’t send that picture in is beyond me – it’s not right,” he said.

Dillon Carr is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Dillon at 412-871-2325, dcarr@tribweb.com or via Twitter @dillonswriting.

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