Since the Animal Rescue League of Western Pennsylvania was founded in 1909, it’s been headquartered in Pittsburgh’s East End. But when the organization found that it was going to need more space in order to grow and keep up its standards of service and care, it faced the possibility of having to expand outside the city limits.
“We had great debates as to whether we wanted to stay in the city or move out to the suburbs, but it really came down to our history and our mission, which is urban,” says Dan Rossi, the ARL’s executive director. “Our clinic sees 10,000 animals a year and many of them come from low-income households, so we felt it was important to stay in the city.”
The rescue league found its dedication rewarded when a neighboring landowner said that space he had just down the street from the organization’s current home at 6620 Hamilton Avenue in East Liberty. The new space, which will not replace but complement the current one, is located in the 6900 block of Hamilton Avenue in Homewood and is big enough to suit the ARL’s needs while keeping its operation fairly well-consolidated.
“It keeps us in the same area, it’s relatively level and it keeps our customers, staff and volunteers on the same bus line. We were really excited to find something so close,” Rossi says. “Homewood is the next great neighborhood. We think it’s a good move for Homewood and a good move for us.”
The new facility will include a pair of operating rooms, additional kennel and outdoor exercise space and an all-purpose community room. Rossi says he expects to have preliminary designs for the new 40,000 square-foot facility within the next two months, and that the project will cost about $15 million.
The ARL currently hosts around 30,000 visitors a year. Last year, the organization saw an all-time high in pet adoptions at 7,056.
To build out its new space, the ARL has enlisted the help of Animal Arts — a Colorado-based firm which specializes in designing animal hospitals and shelters. Strada will work with Animal Arts to make sure that all local laws and codes are met, and PJ Dick will handle the construction.
“We’re trying to design this to be very community friendly,” Rossi says. “It’s something that’s truly needed.”