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Forward residents campaign to keep Fallen Timber open

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Cindy Shegan Keeley | Daily News
Santana, a 4-year-old boxer mix, is going to a new home. Fallen Timber Animal Shelter manager Christa Diebel and others at the shelter in Elizabeth Township will have to relocate as well when the facility closes at at the end of September.

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Friday, Sept. 13, 2013, 5:06 a.m.

Two Forward Township residents are pressing the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society not to close the 38-year-old Fallen Timber Shelter in neighboring Elizabeth Township.

“It's time to demand that Fallen Timber be kept open,” Betty Jane Cline and her daughter Amy L. Cline said in a joint statement.

The women have taken their appeal to the Forward Township board of supervisors and a to a meeting with Humane Society officials.

They said others have contacted them and they are inviting the community to join their cause.

On Sept. 30, the shelter is slated to close and its operations will be consolidated with the facility at 1101 Western Ave. on Pittsburgh's North Side.

“It was and still is a financial decision to close the Fallen Timber animal shelter,” society spokeswoman Gretchen Fieser said on Thursday.

“It is in the long-term best interest of the entire organization, both financially and operationally, to consolidate Fallen Timber with the North Shore facility,” said Jeff Sterling, co-president of the society board of directors, in an Aug. 6 news release.

“By taking this step, the (society's) board of directors want to fulfill the mission of the organization for decades to come for all of Pittsburgh's homeless pets,” Fieser said.

The Humane Society won't totally vacate Fallen Timber. Fieser said a pet cemetery will remain.

The society pointed out in the Aug. 6 release that White Oak Animal Safe Haven is approximately 9.5 miles from Fallen Timber. The White Oak shelter is not affiliated with the Humane Society.

The late Amy Lannan donated the land on which Fallen Timber was built in 1974. Betty Jane Cline said several families including her own helped to raise funds to erect the shelter on the donated land.

The Clines said that Betty Jane Cline also made a $25,000 donation in 2011 “to be used for the exclusive benefit of the Fallen Timber animal shelter ... without resulting in any diminishment or offset to its annual budgetary funding allotment.”

Betty Jane Cline said she also was told of a $50,000 gift from the Camp Bow Wow Foundation as part of its “On Our Way Home” project to expand the Fallen Timber Shelter.

“On Aug. 29, 2012, (Betty Jane) Cline received a letter from development director Deanne Heller, announcing WPHS had purchased a new facility in Shaler and was acquiring land on the North Side for a dog park, with no mention of any Fallen Timber expansion,” the Clines said in their statement.

The Clines said subsequent audits of the society showed no restricted gifts were received.

“What happened to the two gifts restricted for use at Fallen Timber?” the Clines asked. “And how many others are unaccounted for?”

After Betty Jane Cline threatened to withhold future donations from her natural gas royalties, she and her daughter were invited to an Aug. 26 meeting with Heller, executive director David Janusek and society board member Lisa Giusti. “Ms. Heller promised an accounting of (Betty Jane) Cline's windfall donation, but none has been received to date,” the Clines said.

“The response Mrs. Cline mentioned not receiving was sent out first thing (Thursday morning) to her home mailing address,” Fieser said in an email sent to The Daily News four hours after a copy of the Clines' statement was forwarded to the Humane Society. Fieser declined to disclose the contents of that response.

Seven employees are affected at Fallen Timber, including manager Christa Diebel, who referred inquiries to Fieser.

“All employees are welcome to apply for open positions at the North Shore shelter for which they are qualified,” Fieser responded to a question about their future.

As of Thursday, 11 dogs and 10 cats still were housed at Fallen Timber.

In August, the society said it would seek to determine future use for the property and entertain offers from other, certified animal care and adoption organizations.

Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1967, or

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