Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2008

Furry, feathered friends live at City Hall

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J. Adam Fenster⁄The Gazette
CityKat, a stray rescued from a tree by Gaithersburg’s Office of Animal Control Services, has lived at City Hall for 12 years. He is cared for by Lisa Holland, director of animal control, and other city staff.
For years, Lil’ Eddie and The Pirano Brothers have had Gaithersburg’s City Hall at their disposal.

City employees make sure their needs are met, even though the trio never pays a dime in taxes.

In fact, city employees finance their living situation, including food and shelter.

The tiny blue parakeet, Lil’ Eddie and the savage fighting fish The Pirano Brothers hang out in the Animal Control offices with the 14-pound white and brown short-haired CityKat — who has held court in the basement office for nearly 13 years.

House rules say ‘‘We don’t talk about weight here,” said Director Lisa Holland.

‘‘He’s 100 percent vested,” Holland said. ‘‘There are not city funds in the welfare of any of these pets.” An annual collection among city staffers covers the animals’ care.

‘‘People will come down and play with the cat,” Holland said. He ‘‘always has lipstick in his hair from being kissed or perfume on him.”

CityKat — who has a habit of running across desks or keyboards — has lived in the office since April 18, 1995, when he was rescued from a three-day stay in a West Deer Park tree. A public works employee in the elevated arm of a bucket truck coaxed the kitty down into the bucket truck.

Though most rescued cats and dogs go straight to Montgomery County Humane Society in Rockville, a wound required the cat be vaccinated and caged for six months. CityKat has lived in a cage the size of a meat locker in Holland’s office and has been city-loving ever since.

Lil’ Eddie (a.k.a. City Bird) joined City Hall after being rescued on Route 355 three years ago.

‘‘He is a very special bird because he is so tame,” Holland said. ‘‘A lot of people don’t enjoy him as much as we do, so I’ll keep his wings clipped so he cannot fly about the inside office.”

Still, the cerulean bird’s cage is always open. Lil’ Eddie flits from desk to chair or does his trademark handstands on the aquarium edge while taking a drink.

The fish tank containing one pearl gourami and one rosy barb fish arrived following an eviction, Holland said. Holland once tried to give the striking beauties a hermit crab friend but changed her mind.

‘‘We came in the next day and the crab looked like he had a hatchet mark in its head,” she said.

Administrative Assistant Lisa Stream said she couldn’t imagine the office without the pets.

‘‘It’s actually a stress reliever to have the animals here, even though they interrupt your work every now and again,” she said.

The Office of Animal Control handled 1,485 calls in 2006 from wildlife nuisance and dog-at-large complaints to calls to pick up dead animals roadside or assist police in evictions, Holland said.

While dogs and cats are impounded, exotic birds, fish or rabbits are usually given away, Holland said.

Like any family members, the city animals have their quirks. CityKat ‘‘has a bad habit of licking the paste off of envelopes,” Holland said. Lil’ Eddie likes to shake a tail feather to Old Motown.

‘‘Get the groove! C’mon, Ed!” Holland snapped her fingers last month. The parakeet chirped to his favorite ‘‘The Monkey Tune” by Major Lance.

Like Holland, Lil’ Eddie likes to feel the beat to AC⁄DC, Aerosmith, Cat Stevens and Lynyrd Skynyrd. He cocks his head and sings along.