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Humane Society takes steps to open shelter in Shaler

Bethany Hofstetter | Pine Creek Journal
The Western Pennsylvania Humane Society plans to renovate the former Pittsburgh Veterinary Specialty and Emergency Center in Shaler Township to offer cat, rabbit and small animal adoptions in the North Hills.

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By Bethany Hofstetter
Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Before the end of the year, the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society hopes to make it easier for North Hills residents to adopt cats, rabbits and other small animals.

The Western Pennsylvania Humane Society recently acquired the former Pittsburgh Veterinary Specialty and Emergency Center, near Shaler Plaza, in Shaler Township and is working to raise the money to remodel it as a shelter.

“We know that our name is Western Pennsylvania Humane Society — it's not the Pittsburgh Humane Society, it's western Pennsylvania,” said Gretchen Fieser, director of public relations and business relationships.

“We have a location in the South Hills, in Elizabeth Township, and we have a location in the North Side.

“We wanted to have a presence in the North Hills. We think there are lots of people in the North Hills who don't like to come into the city.”

The Western Pennsylvania Humane Society is one of the oldest and largest facilities in the Pittsburgh region and takes in more than 10,000 animals per year, including dogs, cats, rabbits, snakes and birds.

Fieser said the proposed shelter in Shaler will focus on cat and small animal adoptions and will not house dogs. However, Humane Society officials hope to have some canine visitors to the facility once it establishes programming for dog owners and their pets.

To get the Shaler Township shelter open and running, the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society needs to raise about $240,000. The second phase of the project includes plans to establish a veterinary clinic and training facility on the second floor.

Township Manager Tim Rogers said township staff have been working with the Humane Society on initial plans before it formally applies for a building permit. The building already is zoned correctly for the shelter but will have to be brought up to building codes and Americans with Disabilities Act standards before receiving an occupancy permit.

“We welcome them,” Rogers said. “It's a valued service for the greater community, and it fits into a location that is not going to be a nuisance to the neighbors.”

Humane Society officials soon plan to kick off a capital campaign to raise the money to fund the project and hope to have the support of their new neighbors.

“We view this as a way to expand our mission to help people and their pets,” Fieser said.

Bethany Hofstetter is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6364 or

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