Thanks to revival of a program to encourage residents to spay or neuter their pets, and to deal with homeless animals, the city has a long-term strategy that should reduce the number of abandoned or feral animals wandering the streets, rummaging through trash or sometimes harming people they encounter.
The program is better than an earlier version, which offered residents a discount on spay and neutering procedures, because city residents now will be able to get the surgery for as many as five of their animals free of charge. In addition, the city will trap some stray cats and evaluate them to determine if they should undergo the surgery.
Give council President Darlene Harris credit for reinstituting the spay and neuter program. In 2008, she initiated a trap and release program in her North Side district that rounded up dozens of feral cats for the surgery and then sent them back to the neighborhood. That approach reduces the population by attrition rather than euthanizing the animals, and it keeps some felines on the prowl to control rodents.
Council approved the citywide spay and neuter program last year, but the $170,000 effort only now is ready to get started. Some 250 people signed up last year, and others may get in line by calling the city's 311 phone service line. The surgical procedures will be performed by Animal Rescue League in Homewood, Western Pennsylvania Humane Society on the North Side and Animal Friends in Ohio Township.
This program has the potential to handle at least 3,000 animals. If it succeeds, and if it continues for more than one year, Pittsburgh soon could boast that it is a most livable city for dogs and cats as well as people.