SUV cats find homes, wolf-dog captured but stories don't end there

Wolf-dog of Pennypack Park captured. Starving cats pulled from stifling hot SUV adopted.

Happy endings to two animal rescue cases that made headlines in the past two weeks.

But in certain respects, neither story really ends there.

After evading a multitude of searchers for weeks, the wolf-hybrid that escaped from its owner in the Philadelphia park last month was finally corralled on Monday and has found a permanent home at a wolf sanctuary in Lancaster. Another happy aspect to this story: the Pennsylvania Game Commission (thank you, WCO Jerry Czech) managed to capture an at-large animal alive. Always a preferable outcome. Full report from the Inquirer here.

Story over, right?

Not really. The case raises issues about giving animals as gifts. Casey Lyons bought the dog. Levi, as a Valentine's Day gift for his fiancee. She had decided she no longer wanted Levi sometime before he went missing. Animal welfare organizations point out that, particularly in the months after Christmas, many cats, dogs and pocket pets end up in shelters after the recipients decided they didn't want them.

Bringing an animal into one's home should never be a spontaneous decision. There are a multitude of websites offering all kinds of advice about breeds, behavior, health and training that should be consulted before buying or adopting a pet.

That cute, cuddly puppy can quickly turn into a handful if not trained properly. And soon they become a shelter statistic - another life unnecessarily lost  - or they are abandoned on the streets or left to languish on a chain.

Then the the case raises questions about the wisdom of breeding and selling wolf-hybrids - wolf-dog crosses that are illegal in Pennsylvania without a permit. But they are bought and sold freely in Florida which is where the man bought Levi. The consensus among animal welfare groups is that wild animals should be left in the wild. Period.

Next we travel 100 miles west to Harrisburg where a New Jersey man pulled into a Pep Boys with car trouble and the mechanics found well, he had cat trouble too.

As we reported last week, John Molnar III, was on his way to Texas when mechanics discovered dozens of cats - 30 in all, including three newborn kittens -crammed into two crates in the back of his SUV. They were dehydrated, emaciated and suffering from respiratory infections. 

Again Pennsylvanians stepped up. This time the good people at Good Hope Animal Hospital in Mechanicsburg which happens to be located right behind the Pep Boys.

They found space, fed the cats and treated their health problems, while pet rescue groups hustled to find them homes. Fortunately Molnar relinquished ownership of the animals so they were able to be adopted (thanks to local rescue groups). But here's where that story doesn't wrap up with nice bow either.

The rescue came at cost. The veterinary hospital provided thousands of dollars in food and health care. How many hundreds of unwanted Pennsylvania cats were euthanized by Pennsylvania shelters during those few days.

And should the owner foot the bill?

Yes, said Hampden Township police. Molnar is being charged with only one count of animal cruelty because Sgt. Shaun Felty said authorities are seeking restitution for the health care and feeding of the cats.

"The whole idea, with the financial issues with the cats, is to hold him accountable," said Felty.

(While we commend the idea we have to say: Good luck with that folks, Molnar is a few thousand miles away. Anyone ready to mobilize a cat posse to go get him?)

The situation also highlighted the terribly fractured state of animal care and control in Pennsylvania. As the vet office staff scrambled to tend to 30 sick cats, the region's largest animal shelter - Humane Society of Harrisburg Area - was no where to be found. Why? According to Good Hope staff, they said their contract with Hampden Township only covered stray dogs. One would think after the public relations nightmare last winter when they refused to pick up or take in any animals from the city of Harrisburg until their contract dispute was resolved, might have woken them up to the benefits of showing a wee bit of humanity in a crisis situation.

When will Pennsylvanians recognize as residents of other states do, that animal control should be considered an essential government service, like fire and police. Just like fires and crimes, no one can predict when the need for help with animals, wild or pets, will arise. Shouldn't all animals be protected regardless of the municipality where they reside, wander into or are abandoned in?