Going through the Motions: June 12 and 13 | Pittsburgh City Paper

Going through the Motions: June 12 and 13

We attend city council so you don't have to.

For several weeks, Pittsburgh City Council has argued over animal control, but there is still no easy solution to the issue of how to either shelter or euthanize local animals. Or the reporters covering the debate, for that matter.

While I'd vowed not to mention the wildlife issue this week, your city council decided to spent nearly three hours on it all over again ... making your correspondent long for the sweet, sweet thud of the shovel to the back of his head.

In a nutshell, last month the Animal Rescue League said that it would no longer kill wildlife like raccoons, groundhogs and skunks, as it had been doing within city limits for years. A McKees Rocks company, Triangle Pet, bid $50,000 a year to do the work -- about $20 per euthanized animal. (The ARL had been charging about $25 per animal.) But due to extensive conversations about handling extermination in-house, through the city's Animal Control department, council has been putting off legislation to give the work to Triangle.

The issue came back to council's table June 13 ... only this time the Animal Rescue League came along with it. ARL offered to continue euthanizing wildlife for a limited time while training city animal-control officers (who already capture the animals) to do it themselves. In addition, council received a fax from Triangle Pet saying that in light of all of the controversy surrounding the issue, it no longer wanted to do business with the city.

You would think that that would end the debate. But alas, there will be no quick resolution when there's politickin' to be done. Councilor Darlene Harris, who has taken the lead in investigating the situation, used the opportunity to engage in some grandstanding. The performance bore a striking resemblance to Harris' days on the Pittsburgh Public School Board, when she seemed to crawl all over former Superintendent John Thompson's ass for every box of paper clips the district bought.

"You have known since August that [the ARL] would not continue euthanizing wildlife," Harris reminded Public Works Director Guy Costa at least five times, insisting he had done nothing in that time. Costa repeatedly denied the accusation, arguing that the city had made arrangements with Triangle Pet to take over those tasks.

At times, he couldn't even say that much: Often when Costa tried to respond, Harris insisted, "I have the floor!"

One bright spot in the process was animal-control officer Gerald Akrie, who began showing up at council meetings to assert that city employees could do the euthanasia at a cost of 20 cents per animal ... instead of the $19 per animal charged by Triangle Pet. Animal-control officers have been lobbying the city for the past several years to bring the task back in-house.

Bill 2007-1522: Councilor Tonya Payne introduced legislation to rename the baseball field behind the Hill District's Ammons Recreation Center "Josh Gibson Field" -- an homage to the late baseball slugger and Hall of Famer. Gibson, a star of the Negro League's Pittsburgh Crawfords and Homestead Grays, moved to Pittsburgh at age 10. "He's probably one of the greatest players of all time, and he began his career on that very field," Payne said.

Quote of the week: "I certainly wouldn't call a violent 30- to 40-second seizure before you pass away as a humane way to die." -- Gerald Akrie, after council asked whether Triangle Pet's euthanasia techniques were humane.