Animal behavior: Triangle's violations call for a better solution

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It is inexcusable when an agency that is supposed to work for the good of animals turns on them instead.

Triangle Pet Control Services is a McKees Rocks kennel that contracts with dozens of Allegheny County municipalities for animal control. The work is different from that performed by humane officers, who investigate cases of cruelty, abuse or neglect of domestic animals. Animal control companies deal with loose or stray animals, including when they unfortunately have been struck by vehicles, when they bite a human and when they pose harm with rabies.

A control firm's mission may not be the same as those stalwarts of animal care such as Animal Friends, but its treatment of all animals certainly must be humane.

Triangle has failed to meet its responsibilities. Last month, owner Bernard Dudash pleaded guilty to violations that included having unsanitary conditions in its kennel, and he faces allegations that he overcharged the state by exaggerating the number of dogs euthanized at the facility.

As of last Monday, Triangle was barred from boarding, euthanizing, selling or acquiring dogs pending the outcome of a Dec. 4 hearing in Harrisburg. The shutdown has left a void for towns that used the company to pick up strays and wildlife, and it left 23 dogs at Triangle in limbo until Friday. By then, most of the dogs had been placed with Animal Friends and the Animal Rescue League; the remaining three were waiting for owners who had been located to pick them up.

A self-described animal lover and longtime employee of Triangle, Paul McIntyre, is trying to take over the operation, a decision that ultimately rests with state regulators.

But before giving Triangle a new lease on life, the Department of Agriculture must be certain that the company's promise when it takes in stray pets is to reunite them with owners or, failing that, to see that they're placed in new, loving homes, except in very rare instances where an animal is vicious or rabid.

Even when animal control facilities must euthanize animals -- raccoons, bats, deer or other wildlife, for example -- they must use the most humane methods available.

Pittsburgh City Council President Darlene Harris, a vocal advocate for animal rights, thinks the city can step in to aid those boroughs and townships that have used Triangle. The city of Pittsburgh operates its own animal care and control division, utilizing a part-time veterinarian, and it could expand on a fee-for-service basis. Several years ago, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl floated a similar idea for shared animal control services.

With Triangle Pet Control out of commission, at least temporarily and possibly permanently, there is new impetus for taking the notion off the drawing board and putting it into action. The animals deserve a more reputable facility, and so does the public.

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