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Penn Hills

Penn Hills considers changes to dog catching contract

Dillon Carr
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Mr. Slobbers, a pit bull mix, walking on a path in Penn Hills. The stray dog was rescued by Brittney Norris and Elizabeth Taylor.

Penn Hills council will consider making changes to a contract with its dog catching services after a group of activists made their concerns public.

Brittney Norris, 35, and Elizabeth Taylor, both Penn Hills residents, are “fed up with the unethical business practices and inhumane treatment of animals by Hoffman Kennels Inc.,” according to a letter they sent to the municipality requesting to speak at an Aug. 13 meeting.

Gary Hoffman, owner of Hoffman’s Kennel, did not respond to calls seeking comment.

Norris and Taylor presented their findings after comparing several surrounding communities’ contracts with the animal control business.

They found Penn Hills pays $30,000 a year for Hoffman’s services — about 85 percent more than North Huntingdon, Plum, Murrysville and others.

Norris also detailed 15 amendments she’d like council to make to its contract with Hoffman’s, which lasts through June 2019.

Suggestions include requiring they post pictures of captured dogs and cats to social media, provide more details on invoices to the municipality, hold licensed dogs for 10 days, hold stray dogs and cats for five days and scan all captures for microchips. She also wants Hoffman’s workers to “provide professional, courteous service.”

Mayor Sara Kuhn said she will give the manager a list of things she thinks need to be addressed, but there are legal hoops to jump through before council can scrap a contract.

“In order for us to take a contract from someone, there’s a lot of legal I’s to dot and T’s to cross. But … I don’t see that there would be any reason that (Hoffman’s) would not be agreeable to some of the amendments,” Kuhn said.

Councilman John Petrucci said he spoke to several public officials, current and retired, who all said they have never had an issue with Hoffman’s Kennel. He also said there have been no complaints filed against the animal control business and the kennel has passed all yearly inspections, conducted twice a year by the Westmoreland County Dog Warden’s office.

“I see no problem with lengthening … the time (animals are) detained, making sure they check for microchips, posting pictures on Facebook,” Councilman Mark Brodnicki said, adding that if the changes cannot be made now, they can be made when the contract expires June 2019.

When Norris and 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.

Since then, the pair created an online petition on Change.org and, as of Aug. 22, have received 1,671 signatures to “stop the use of inhumane Hoffman’s Kennel & Animal Control.”

A separate group of residents from Plum, Murrysville, Penn Township and other communities served by Hoffman’s asked municipal councils in 2012 to find a new animal-control officer or to tighten regulations on the kennel.

Norris said she was inspired to look into Hoffman’s Kennel after she rescued a stray in Penn Hills she called Mr. Slobbers, a boxer mix.

Norris said she took the dog to Hoffman’s, hoping the business would reunite the dog with his owner. Her interaction with the kennel did not go well, she said.

“There are basic things that they should be doing as a business that just isn’t happening,” Norris said. “And the residents have to deal with the frustration. So our sincere hope is to make some changes, not wait until the contract expires.”

They also said the facility at 285 Cloverleaf Drive is unkempt and smells of urine, often resulting in pets being returned to owners in poor health. Additionally, they claim the company is difficult to reach by phone, email or website and “they do nothing to publicly promote animals that are available for adoption.”

Penn Hills’ next council meeting is scheduled for Sept. 10.

Dillon Carr is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Dillon at 412-871-2325, [email protected] or via Twitter @dillonswriting.

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