New Kensington no-kill shelter wants larger home

| Saturday, Nov. 30, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

New Kensington's no-kill animal shelter, Animal Protectors of Allegheny Valley, usually helps place abandoned pets in new homes.

But now the shelter, itself, is looking for a new residence.

The shelter, which is on Linden Avenue, was gifted five acres of land off Oberleiter Road in Allegheny Township by Joyce Anderson.

The land is zoned only for kennel use, so the shelter must apply for a special exemption to construct a shelter on the land.

The hearing for the special exemption is Tuesday.

“We've outgrown the building we're in right now,” said Jeanne Lessig, the president of the nonprofit shelter. “So, we would love to have an new place of our own.

“For this to come along, it's such a godsend.”

Animal Protectors of Allegheny Valley is the only no-kill shelter between Pittsburgh and Kittanning, Lessig said.

Last year, the shelter took in 631 animals and adopted out 402. It spay/neutered 503 animals.

“We serve all the communities in the Valley, on both sides of the river,” she said.

Anderson, a New Kensington native who lives in Imperial, said she has always hoped to see an animal shelter built on what was once her farm.

She explains her land donation to Animal Protectors this way: “My whole family loves animals. It's probably the most important thing in the world to me. We are huge animal lovers, and there's such a large need out there.”

Anderson said she put a time condition into her donation.

“I want to see it built within the next three years,” she said. “I think this is a really great asset for the community.

“I love that land; it's where our ancestors grew up. I want to use it to make a difference — not just build condos on it or something.”

Kathy Starr, chairwoman of the Allegheny Township supervisors, doesn't think there will be any issues for the shelter at Tuesday's zoning hearing.

“The area is zoned R-2, and an animal shelter is permitted there,” she said. “There should be no problem with the zoning board approval. That would clear the way for them to purchase the land.”

Starr said the township would be more than happy to house the shelter.

“I think it would be a great thing for our township,” she said. “We're good farm people here, but sometimes we have little cats and dogs that need our help, too.”

Getting the township's approval is only half the battle, according to the shelter's vice president, Phyllis Framel.

“If we get approval, we have to do a feasibility study on raising enough money to build the shelter,” Framel said. “It will cost about $2.2 million to build it.

“We have to see if we can raise that much money in that time.”

The city of New Kensington owns the shelter's current location, according to Lessig. The shelter pays the city $1 a year to rent it but pays for maintenance, utilities and other expenses.

New Kensington used to pay the shelter's utilities and give it $500 a month to act as its dog-catcher. Lessig said that stopped a few years ago.

New Kensington Mayor Tom Guzzo did not return a call for comment.

R.A. Monti is a contributing writerfor Trib Total Media.

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