Pittsburgh “Animal Care and Control”? Where’s the “Care”?

Photo credit: Barbara Fudakis

Fortunately for thousands of animals across the nation – both domestic and wild – there is a little revolution taking place in the Animal Control world. It started out to a large extent with the No Kill Advocacy Center, which began campaigning to stop the pointless mass killing of healthy domestic animals in shelters, but it is gradually spreading to cover wildlife issues, with some model cities reinventing their wildlife management policies towards a non-lethal stance.

The City of Pittsburgh recently decided to take a page out of the No Kill movement’s book and…. re-named its Animal Control department “Animal Care and Control.” Sounds good, right? Very progressive. Unfortunately, it stopped right there. With the semantic part.

For the approximately 2000 animals a year the City carts around in its trucks and kills, plus the countless babies left behind to die, nothing has changed, there’s no “Care” in sight, they’re still getting killed (and at the end of the day, not much is getting “Controlled” either). In fact, in person, on the phone and on its website, Animal Control actively encourages residents to opt for trap-and-kill and evades promoting sensible solutions where no one gets hurt, the animal included.

It’s not that Animal Control and Council reps don’t know any better, they do… The Humane Society of the United States made a presentation to them 4 years ago, showing how things could be improved and, for example, how rabies could be more efficiently controlled. None of that advice was taken. Why? Well, let’s just say that it’s not in their interests right now for things to change, because the public who potentially care about this situation are silent – they don’t know it exists. And the ones who want to repeatedly use the trap-and-kill service (as the City website states “Residents are to call Animal Care & Control as often as they need to have animals removed” – aka, never mind removing the attractant, just keep calling…!) are very loud and very entitled.

There are many alternative solutions to the neanderthal approach currently taken by the City of Pittsburgh, at great cost to taxpayers (remember, 75% percent of AC time is spent on wildlife pick-up). If you’re a City resident, let your Council representative know how disgusted you are with the City’s inhumane and fiscally irresponsible Animal Control program. It’s backward and outdated, and those involved in implementing it are actively resistant to change.

But what if…?

Because we like to keep positive, here are some suggestions for Pittsburgh Animal Control:

What if the City’s team of AC officers devoted a good chunk of their time to working on issues with dog fighting and other matters pertaining to irresponsible animal guardianship, which are not so much an animal problem as a human problem? What if they took the hint from the HSUS anti-dog fighting program and really started making some good things happen in this City? Turning teens around, working with school kids…

What if they helped out with trap-neuter-return programs for feral cats, which can really help resolve neighborhood issues with feral cat populations and keep them managed and healthy sustainably?

Hint to the Union: not a job has to be lost here… Of course, there are some who might say you’re not real men any more, you know, not picking up all the “dangerous” varmint and stuff in traps… But we kind of go with the saying that real men (and women) are kind to animals. Waddya think?

Care: "The provision of what is necessary for the health, welfare, maintenance, and protection of someone or something" (Google dictionary)

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