City Council goes to the dogs, and cats

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Every Wednesday, a dog and a cat visit Pittsburgh City Council. This has been going on for several months. They behave better than a lot of visitors to the Council Chamber and, with few exceptions so far, they all have gotten what they came for.

Since council began helping the Animal Rescue League in its "Drive for Five" campaign -- a 2008 goal of getting 5,000 strays adopted -- 13 dogs and 12 cats that have made council visits have been snapped up. That amounts to all but one of the dogs and all but two of the cats.

Charlotte Grimme, executive director of the Animal Rescue League, said not all those adoptions can be attributed to council's exposure, "but this program has brought us luck."

For instance, the 8-year-old brindled Italian greyhound mix that made her Grant Street debut last week was adopted that day. "It's hard to place an 8-year-old dog, so that's great," she said.

A few adoptees charmed council staffers and now live with them. "When we get all their homes filled, we'll see" how many animal lovers might be tuned in to council on TV, said Ms. Grimme. "So far, it has been a wonderful help, and we're just so grateful."

League staffer Joe Tedesco escorts the animals to council. "I try to pick ones I think will react well to being passed around," he said, "especially the cats, because that's not normal for them."

Council members Bruce Kraus and Darlene Harris and Mr. Kraus' senior policy adviser, Linda Binstock, initiated the partnership.

"They're all animal lovers," Ms. Grimme said, "but this is also a way to help us out."

The Animal Rescue League is the contracted receiver of all errant animals the city picks up.

"We need to get the word out that if city residents lose a dog or a cat they should come here right away," said Ms. Grimme. "Trucks roll in constantly, and we get thousands of animals" -- 8,000 a year.

The number that do not have ID, including microchips, "is heartbreaking," she said.

The league is at 6620 Hamilton Ave., Larimer, and is open for reclaiming lost animals from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. except on weekends and Mondays, when claim hours end at 5 p.m.

Of the roughly 8,000 animals the rescue league takes in, it places about 5,000, many to foster homes, said Ms. Grimme. Of the almost 3,000 that are euthanized, most are feral cats, vicious dogs and animals that are sick, she said.

"Some would be treatable if we had the resources," she said.

For more information about the Animal Rescue League's services and programs -- including discounts on cat adoptions -- visit

Diana Nelson Jones can be reached at or 412-263-1626.


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