By Elizabeth Perry
A recent dog attack has residents and police asking the borough council for effective animal control in McKees Rocks.
Police corroborate the account of a woman whose dog, Thunder, was attacked by local pitbulls on Taggart Street Easter Sunday.
“My heart’s broken for her because losing a pet is losing a family member,” McKees Rocks Police Captain David Finerty said.
The injuries Thunder suffered resulted in him having to be put down. The pitbull which mortally injured the dog was shot by the son of Thunder’s owner. Finerty said the young man would not face charges as he was a legal gun owner defending his pet and himself.
“The remaining pitbull was properly quarantined and is still quarantined to this day,” Finerty said on April 14.
However, there was a delay in dealing with the surviving dog.
At an April 11 meeting, Thunder’s owner spoke to the council. She declined to be named in print, but said in the public meeting she saw the offending animal in its yard the day after the attack. Finerty said the department had to follow legal protocols to remove the dog and declare it dangerous.
“There is obviously a legal process that needs to take place before we can intervene. You can’t arrest a dog,” Finerty said.
According to the laws in Allegheny County, officials quarantine when a dog bites a person. The quarantine usually lasts for a 10-day period at an owner’s expense to determine if the animal is infected with rabies.
The state dog warden or local police have to go before a magistrate judge to deem a dog dangerous.
If it attacks a person or another domestic animal, as what happened to Thunder, then the animal can be deemed dangerous.
Once a dog is deemed dangerous, a pet owner can get the dog back, though they are subject to fines and stricter rules in caring for the animal–the canine has to be muzzled in public and only adults can walk them, they must be properly locked in a yard as well as other restrictions.
Only if the dog escapes or causes harm again are authorities able to step in to have the animal destroyed.
The owner of the pitbulls who attacked Thunder was cited for having dangerous dogs after the attack that killed him. Finerty said she had tried to properly secure them in her yard, but they still escaped.
“It was just a tragic, horrific, hellacious accident,” Finerty said. “I feel horrible for everybody.”
In an interview after the meeting, Thunder’s owner said the dogs who attacked him had been a problem in her neighborhood, and had been mentioned to the police at least two years ago. The most recent event involved the dogs killing two cats and inappropriate sensing. She said neighbors had been worried the dogs weren’t properly fenced and had contacted police prior to the attack on Thunder, but nothing had been done.
Finerty said the borough should be looking into contracting an animal control service because the police station is not equipped to house animals.
During the meeting, Tax Collector Tracey Pedersen mentioned an incident involving a dog attack that had happened the week before. Council Member Maryann Holland added to the discourse that a similar dog attack had happened in her neighborhood.
“We’re trying to put animal control together,” Council member Vincent Corrie said.
Corrie is exploring different options for the borough.
At this time, McKees Rocks does not contract with an animal control service and residents who want to remove animals have to call for service at their own expense according to McKees Rocks Borough Manager LeeAnn Wozniak.
McKees Rocks once contracted with Triangle Animal Control, which was shut down due to widely reported charges of embezzlement and animal cruelty in 2012.
The attack on Thunder inspired a Change.org petition, which has been signed by more than 75 residents who are also worried about dangerous dogs in the area.