Does Mayor Peduto’s Office Have an Animal Welfare Advisory Group?

I am seeking information on a possible advisory group to the Mayor’s Office or the City as a whole on animal welfare for my blog Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents.

My information is the organization HUMANE ACTION Pittsburgh fills that role with little to no participation from other groups, individuals, with the exceptions of HAR and Animal Friends. This is the most concrete information I have, but it is unconfirmed. So it could all be a misunderstanding or misrepresentation of reality.

I have repeatedly asked City of Pittsburgh, the campaign of Bill Peduto, and 311 for this information with the only response being “I’ll see what I can find out” then crickets. I could file a FOIA request, but I’m not sure what I’m asking for – meeting minutes? email? letters? – and fear it would be too broad and denied. Note that the City has also not denied in any way, shape, or form that the structure above is the defacto advisory group. I’ve also asked tons of animal welfare advocates and groups.

I think the Mayor’s Office *should* have this sort of advisory group, absolutely, but clearly it should represent many voices and encompass both urban wildlife and homeless domesticated animals, large orgs and small. And lots of diversity especially economic and racial. The chicken coop people, the people who trap baby foxes, the paddle boat people who rescue ducks trapped in nets, fisherpeople, cat ladies, climate change experts on wildlife impacts, pet store owners, pet owners, and cat ladies, too. (note – I do not want to serve on this group, I just want to know if it exists.)

I can think of a few explanations:

– it doesn’t exist and the Administration doesn’t think it should, so no one can find information on it.
– it does exist informally in the form I laid out which is not appropriate for a governmental entity.
– it does exist, but there is no interest in communicating with me about it.
– the pandemic has created so much stress that these sorts of requests are months behind and it’s not unusual at all

Before you misunderstand me, I am supporting Bill Peduto in the upcoming election. I serve on a City Commission, my wife works for this Administration, the Mayor was a co-officiant at our wedding, etc. But none of that changes who I am – a pursuer of information. It is kitten and wildlife baby season so this cannot wait. But I’m not changing my vote based on that. Any comments bashing either candidate will not be tolerated.

So why am I seeking this information? Well, I’m concerned about several angles of City policy around animal welfare. It is fun and games for the political reporters to joke about reptiles and elephants, but they allow themselves to be distracted from very real issues.

For example, the City pays a state veterinarian at least $3300 per month to write prescriptions for the medication they use to euthanize animals. The veterinarian doesn’t perform the euthenizations – the average Joe working for the City has to do that. It isn’t even necessarily a Pittsburgh based veterinarian so the funds could be contracted locally. Is that okay? That was 2014 – how much is it now? Who is overseeing this? How does it factor into the larger animal welfare budget?

Another concern I have is the amount of City resources being used to handle “pests that eat gardens” versus real wildlife emergencies. Assorted neighbors have used this to protect their gardens. My taxpayer money shouldn’t be used for garden control. Who oversees this?

Third, I recently made an inquiry about Animal Care & Control working with PLI to coordinate removing live animals from houses slated to be demolished. It shouldn’t be okay for the City to recklessly kill animals. The person I spoke with says he won’t lend AC&C traps to Manchester because they will be stolen. And his guys are busy. Taking care of garden pest emergencies, no doubt. Doesn’t it make sense for the two entities to work together to remove live animals a few days before demolition? They can be spayed/neutered, vaccinated, and stored until a release date. It isn’t rocket science, but if you won’t lend your traps – how open are you going to be to a policy change? Also, they lend traps to people all of the time. I recently learned that a AC&C worker illegally released raccoons in Manchester as a favor to someone who accidentally trapped them. I’m in favor of release, but not a pick and choose approach to who can be trusted with a trap and who cannot. Who oversees this?

Fourth, why is there no mention of urban wildlife and domestic homeless animals in the highly touted Climate Action Plan? 

Finally, remember when ducklings were dying in the Highland Park Reservoir and the CIty couldn’t do anything? Yeah, me too.

None of these are issues that can be addressed any one agency – not Humane Action Pittsburgh, not HAR or AF, not anyone.

So if you have any details, please leave a comment or reach out to me at pghlesbiant at gmail. Thank you!

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