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In Care of Cats may transfer to Fallen Timber site

| Saturday, Oct. 4, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

A local animal shelter that closed last year as the result of belt-tightening measures by the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society could reopen soon under new ownership as a shelter for cats.

Elizabeth Township-based In Care of Cats is in the process of pursuing an agreement to expand its operations into the Fallen Timber Animal Shelter, which closed last year.

In Care of Cats founder Risé Chontos said she hopes to finalize paperwork soon on an agreement with the Humane Society that will allow her nonprofit to lease the building with the option of purchasing it after one year.

Chontos, whose existing sanctuary for rescued and nonadoptable cats is nearby, said she plans to expand services her organization already offers and introduce new ones once she is in the building and its infrastructure has been adapted for cats.

She said her organization is preparing for some serious fundraising in the months ahead to support the expansion.

Still, Chontos said it is important to note what the center will not be.

“It's not going to be an open-door shelter,” Chontos said. “We're not going to be adopting people's home-grown kittens.”

Rather, she said, the In Care of Cats Rescue Adoption Center will cater to nonadoptable cats — ones that are ill, injured or have other serious problems.

Chontos hopes to introduce new services at the center including spay and neuter clinics, educational outreach programs specializing in cat outreach and care, and as a base for a trap, neuter and release program.

“Everybody is waiting,” said Chontos. “It's ‘When? When? When?'”

Chontos said it is hard to determine a definite date on when the new center will begin offering services, but it's likely to start sometime in 2015.

In addition to the main shelter, the 17-acre Fallen Timber property has a barn, several out buildings and a pet cemetery, Chontos said.

“It's perfect for us,” she said.

Humane Society spokesperson Kristen Lane said her organization appreciates Chontos' efforts.

“Western Pennsylvania Humane Society is happy that a group like In Care of Cats is able to take over the former shelter and we salute them for the good work they do with cats in need,” Lane said.

Local animal officials say it would be a relief to have another shelter nearby.

Ken Ferree, an animal control officer in many local communities, said calls about stray cats have increased.

“Our intake of cat-related complaints and concerns has gone from one or two a week a year ago to one or two a day this year,” Ferree said.

White Oak Animal Safe Haven founder Ina Jean Marton said bringing the old shelter back online for cats will reduce the burden on other shelters.

“We're all really tied in together,” Marton said, noting of Chontos, “She helps us and we help her.”

Marton said she's had to turn people with cats away at times when there is no room at her no-kill shelter. Marton said the new shelter should help reduce those situations.

Chontos said her goal is to make the Pittsburgh area a no-kill region for animals and that opening the new shelter will help make that a reality.

Eric Slagle is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1966, or eslagle@tribweb.com.

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