Allegheny County left with animal control void

McKees Rocks kennel's suspension worries authorities

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The suspension of a McKees Rocks kennel serving dozens of Allegheny County municipalities has left some police departments worrying if their animal control services have gone to the dogs.

"We're contacting some other agencies trying to get ideas on how to handle this," said Shaler police Chief Bryan Kelly. "It kind of left of us in a lurch here."

Triangle Pet Control Services was cited by the county dog warden Aug. 7 for violating state dog law by failing to maintain records and sanitary conditions at the kennel that serves more than 50 of the county's municipalities.

Bernard Dudash, the owner, pleaded guilty last month to the violations, which specifically said the warden found "excess feces in kennel," "floor of kennel and dog's snout, chest, legs and feet covered in vomit" and incomplete and incorrect state forms, as well as no records at all on some dogs.

Samantha Krepps, a spokeswoman for Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, said the agency subsequently denied Triangle's request to renew their license and suspended the kennel when the owner filed an appeal. Such suspensions, she said, are department protocol.

As of Oct. 1, Triangle is prohibited from boarding, euthanizing, selling or acquiring dogs pending the outcome of a Dec. 4 hearing in Harrisburg, Ms. Krepps said.

Mr. Dudash declined to comment, but an employee of the company said they can continue to pick up stray cats, wildlife and road kill.

Now local municipalities are left scrambling to find contingency plans for stray dogs. Ms. Krepps said many have been told they can contact the dog warden, who will try to find a shelter to house the animals until a more reliable plan is in place.

"We're still trying to work that issue out," Ms. Krepps said. "Our dog warden has talked to some shelters and kennels in the Allegheny County area."

Chief Kelly worries that one person won't be enough to answer all of the calls.

"If he isn't available, especially if we have a dog that is vicious, it's going to be a problem," he said.

Robinson police Chief Dale Vietmeier intends to call the dog warden for help, largely due to the fact that he's unaware of any other animal control companies to go through.

"It's almost like Triangle was a total monopoly," he said.

Dilemmas caused by having only one animal control company to contract with has been a reoccurring problem in the region.

"I've been in this business for 30-something years and prior to Triangle Pet, we had the same issues," said Donald Dorsch, police chief of Franklin Park.

Nor is this the first time the company's practices have come under scrutiny.

Mr. Dudash was charged with theft by deception and tampering with public records in January after state police alleged that he collected more than $37,000 in state reimbursement by padding records and claiming he euthanized dogs that didn't exist. A trial is scheduled on the matter for Dec. 19.

Chief Dorsch is contemplating banding together with neighboring communities to create a more stable animal control system.

This week the police department began its own database of stray pets they have encountered in the past, in hopes of increasing the chances of reuniting dogs with their owners if the animal control service doesn't come back.

"What I hope happens is Triangle Pet gets their books in order, and everything is cleaned up, and they stay in business," he said.

Meanwhile, local shelters are bracing for an influx of animals. The warden is trying to find new kennels for 25 dogs currently at Triangle Pet.

"It will have an impact on our numbers because we will have to absorb the intakes on some level," said Janice Barnard of the Animal Rescue League, a group that accepts pets at open-door shelters as well as through Pittsburgh's animal control.

The Western Pennsylvania Humane Society, which only takes pets from the public, said they will welcome some of the animals into their two already crowded facilities.

"It's important that we work with the dog warden to the best of our ability," said spokeswoman Gretchen Fieser. "We're not going to turn our backs on them, but we're asking them to work with us."

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Taryn Luna: tluna@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1985.


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