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New Ken's no-kill shelter runs out of room

| Saturday, July 21, 2001

NEW KENSINGTON: A city animal shelter struggling to accommodate the number of cats and dogs brought through its doors is looking to expand but could be hindered by two obstacles - money and a flood zone.

Animal Protectors of Allegheny Valley, according to board members, is keeping far more animals than its capacity - a problem most no-kill shelters face.

To remedy the situation, board members are exploring options, including expanding the shelter along Linden Avenue or moving part or all of the operation to a larger facility.

Board members are uncertain what they will do but said they favor expansion and have petitioned city council for support.

'We're running out of space,' board member Janet Rader said. 'We'd like to add on, but the building obviously is in a flood plain. If we can't add on, we don't know what we're going to do.'

Expanding the shelter, according to city officials, could be a problem because the building sits in a 100-year flood plain. An Urban Renewal Plan that covers the area stipulates where and how things can be built.

According to city officials, feasible options for expanding exist, including building on pylons over what now is the parking lot or possibly adding a second story.

The shelter is slightly less than 3,000 square feet, according to board members.

The city owns the property the shelter sits on and leases the building to Animal Protectors for $1 per year.

Rader said board members would like an extended lease from the city and most likely would not modify the building if the lease can't be lengthy.

How New Ken can help

According to Councilwoman Kim McAfoose, city council could pursue several options. One would be to provide the long-term lease on the building and outline the financial commitment of the city. Another would be for the city to sell the building to the group for a nominal fee.

Animal Protectors acts as the animal control officer for the city. City officials acknowledge the importance of the service and express a desire to support the shelter.

Last year, the city lent the shelter about $18,000, including the cost of maintenance on the building and a $375 monthly animal control fee.

But the shelter, which depends on donations and volunteers, has struggled to make ends meet.

The only paid staff, according to board members, are the people who clean the shelter.

Board members said the possible expansion of the shelter would not happen without a successful fund-raiser. A major capital fund drive is essential to the success of the expansion, they said.

Other no-kill shelters face similar struggles.

According to a spokeswoman for Animal Friends in Pittsburgh, no-kill shelters constantly are asked to stretch their means.

'When you're full, you're full, but the requests keep coming in,' she said.

Elaine Gower, humane officer for Action for Animals in Derry, said her no-kill shelter is forced to turn down animals daily.

The shelter doesn't act as animal control for Derry and is not required to take in the animals but has expanded twice.

According to board members, Animal Protectors is at almost at double its capacity. The shelter has the capacity to house 25 cats and 25 dogs but is holding about 50 cats and 35 dogs, according to board members.

'Even if we had the Citizens General Hospital building, we'd probably run out of space,' Rader said.

But an animal finding a home makes the strain bearable, board members said. Last year about 350 dogs and an equal number of cats were adopted.

As required by state law, each animal taken in by the shelter is spayed or neutered before it is given a new home.

Michael Aubele can be reached at maubele@tribweb.com









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