The small concrete-block building in New Kensington is plain and sturdy. It has no architectural character or charm, except for the “catio,” a screened porch where several cats nap or play as they enjoy fresh air and sunshine.
Inside the no-frills building is cramped but clean, and obvious care has been taken to make sure the 23 dogs and 30 cats that live there are safe and comfortable. The people who work and volunteer there do paperwork and eat their lunches surrounded by cat cages, but no one complains about that.
For 51 years, Animal Protectors of Allegheny Valley has been saving injured, abandoned, and abused cats and dogs, including strays picked up by the city of New Kensington. Since 1986, it has worked out of the city-owned concrete building at 533 Linden Ave.
A move to a new and better building is just over the horizon, though more money is needed to make the dream a reality..
The board of the nonprofit in Westmoreland County has paid $840,000 in cash for an attractive two-story, red-brick building at 730 Church St.
“We’ve been looking for a new site for six years, and we’ve been saving money for years,” said Phyllis Framel of Allegheny Township, a retired corporate librarian who is vice president of the shelter’s board.
She and her husband, John, chair the capital campaign, which has raised $400,000 of the $700,000 needed to complete the first two phases of a renovation project that includes 14 dog kennels and housing for 30 cats, including a “cat free roam” room and an outdoor catio. An additional $590,000 is needed to complete phases 3 and 4, which would include more dog kennels, an education center and an indoor dog training room.
Architects from Canzian/Johnston and Associates will spend at least four months on the design, followed by up to a year of renovation, Mrs. Framel said.
The biggest expense is bringing wiring and plumbing up to code and removing asbestos from old window frames, she said. “The city has also asked us to fence the entire 4 acres.”
The new building has about 10,000 square feet. The old building has 3,000 square feet, plus two outdoor play yards for dogs.
Each year, 400-600 cats and dogs are cared for in the shelter and in the foster homes of volunteers. Owner surrenders are generally not accepted except for emergencies.
“We get a lot of animals from police and fire departments,” Mrs. Framel said. The cats and dogs all get adopted “sooner or later because we do not euthanize for space.”
More animals cannot come into the shelter until others, like Izzy, leave. On a recent day the pretty pit bull mix was walking nicely and happily on a leash held by one of the volunteers. Animal Protectors operates with 150 volunteers and two full-time and eight part-time employees.
Izzy has been adopted and will go to her new home as soon as the shelter can get her a veterinary appointment. Four or five local veterinarians work with the shelter, offering spay/neuter surgeries and other care at discounted rates.
Another veterinarian has also stepped up, and “she is a godsend,” Mrs. Framel said. Betsy Kennon of Natrona Heights retired from Northview Animal Hospital in Ross one year ago. A month ago, she started volunteering at Animal Protectors one morning a week, inoculating shelter dogs and cats and doing veterinary checkups.
“I am enjoying it,” Dr. Kennon said. “There are really good people here.”
Volunteering is a longtime activity for Dr. Kennon and her cat, Scooter, 10. They have been in Pet Tales multiple times as they make therapy cat visits to HealthSouth Harmarville Rehabilitation Hospital, Heritage Hospice in New Kensington and other health care facilities.
Scooter’s back legs are paralyzed and supported by a wheeled cart. Patients dealing with their own serious injuries and illnesses are charmed, cheered and inspired by his visits.
The public is invited to an open house at the new Animal Protectors building on Nov. 11 from 1-3 p.m. Adoptable animals will be greeting visitors. Among them will be a tan dog named Chloe and Jake, a white cat.
Chloe is a young terrier mix who came to the shelter in September with a bad case of mange. Her former owner’s veterinarian said Chloe should be euthanized. Instead, Animal Protectors got her veterinary care. Chloe’s hair has grown back, her skin is clear, and she’s very sweet, friendly, quiet and well-behaved.
The super-friendly Jake “is the current standout at our shelter,” says the website.
The shelter’s next fundraiser is Saturday at 4 p.m. at the West Leechburg Fire Hall, 1116 Gosser St. Dinner begins at 4:30 p.m. A $30 ticket covers the catered buffet, dessert, snacks, drafts and soft drinks. Games of chance, raffles and 50/50 drawings will be held from 5-8 p.m. Over $5,000 in cash prizes will be given away at the Autumnfest Cash Bash. Information: 724-339-7388 or animalprotectors.net.
Linda Wilson Fuoco: email@example.com or 412-263-3064 or on Facebook.