November 26, 2013 | Vol. 74 No. 19

Pet problems topic of Mt. Oliver City block watch

The Mount Oliver/St. Clair Block Watch convened for its final meeting of the year on Thursday, Nov. 21, to discuss some of the neighborhoods’ 2013 trends and accomplishments and outline its goals and programs for next year.

Zone 3 Crime Prevention Officer Christine Luffey was on hand to solicit feedback and answer questions, and the meeting officially began when she asked residents in attendance one question: “How can we (the police) help you?”

Though a number of citizens expressed satisfaction with police service to their neighborhoods and reported seeing a decrease in the amount of suspicious activities in targeted areas, a few ongoing problems were raised.

Multiple people reported seeing loose canines roaming the streets recently, and complained about the animals getting into garbage and doing their business on other people’s front lawns.

Pet issues are, as they say, right up Officer Luffey’s alley. The officer runs the whole city with animal cruelty cases and works very closely with Animal Friends to ensure animals are treated humanely, and in full accordance with the law.

She assured residents she would look into the matter and further explained the gravity of the situation: “It sounds like whoever is leaving these dogs unattended isn’t just causing a mess for their neighbors—they’re also possibly endangering their animals’ lives.”

“With the cold temperatures and low visibility at night, these animals could very well end up dead,” she continued. “But, if you call me with the address and a description (of the dogs), I’ll make sure that doesn’t happen.”

Officer Luffey went on to explain, according to Pennsylvania state law, any dog, or other pet, left outside for an extended period of time must have access to an insulated doghouse that is raised two inches from the ground.

“Anything short of these exact standards is inadequate,” Officer Luffey asserted, noting even decks or porches are not considered shelter under the law, “and could result in a citation—or if the situation is bad enough, having the pet taken away.”

Also speaking to pet concerns, Officer Luffey reminded residents of the importance of spaying and neutering dogs and cats, and told them about the city’s Spay/Neuter Program, which provides free spay/neuter services for city residents for up to five pets per household. More information about the City of Pittsburgh Spay/Neuter Program can be found online at http://www.pittsburghpa.gov/animalcontrol/spay_neuter.htm.

The meeting shifted focus from neglected pets to neglected vehicles when one woman raised concern over vehicles, including a pop-up trailer, which appears to have been abandoned at different locations throughout the Mount Oliver/St. Clair region.

Officer Luffey said residents should report vehicles they suspect are abandoned by making a non-emergency call to the station with the plate number and description and location of the vehicle. If the vehicle is parked on a city street, and the plate and inspection are both expired by 90 days, the vehicle can be towed immediately, the officer stated.

If, however, the plate and/or inspection sticker are expired but not yet at the 90-day mark, the vehicle will be placed on a “watch list” and be removed when all criteria are met, which, Officer Luffey noted, can seem like a lengthy process.

Once Officer Luffey finished discussing residents’ questions and concerns, Block Watch coordinator Suzanne Photos took the floor to announce some of the projects the group will embark upon come 2014.

Ms. Photos said the Block Watch has appointed three ambassadors to work with ReClaim South to rescue and revitalize abandoned lots in the Mount Oliver/St. Clair neighborhoods. Three spots are currently under consideration, she said, though the exact locations are subject to change.

According to Ms. Photos, 2014 will also find the Block Watch highly involved in the development of the St. Clair Village site. Members will sit on a steering committee to be involved in feasibility studies and other meetings throughout the year, to see if the site can be revitalized in a positive way other than with housing.

Other goals the Block Watch has set for 2014 include finding funding for the flagpole its members want to place behind the Hilltop sign in Mount Oliver, and reaching even more members of their communities to help create neighborhood safety and pride.

The Mount Oliver/St. Clair Block Watch’s next meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014, at St. John Vianney Parish Center. The group meets on a bi-monthly (every other month) schedule throughout the year, and invites all interested area residents to attend its meetings and take an active part in the present and future of their community.

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