animal shelter fundraiser

TANNER MONDOK | Herald Angelia Sherman, Shenango Valley Animal Shelter manager, speaks earlier this month during the Shenango Valley Animal Shelter capital campaign kickoff.

HERMITAGE — Shenango Valley Animal Shelter officials working to raise money for a new building expect to receive a boost with some state funding.

State Rep. Mark Longietti, D-7, Hermitage, delivered the good news — the shelter should receive $150,000 from the state's Keystone Communities Program — Thursday at the animal shelter board of directors meeting.

"I was informed at the state level that it is extremely rare to not go through at this point," Longietti said.

The grant money will go toward a planned new facility, which is expected to cost about $2.5 million. The new building would provide increased capacity for housing animals and additional features, such as quarantine areas, not available at the current building, which was originally designed to house a no-kill shelter.

The board of directors expressed their appreciation to Longietti helping secure the funds, with board President Duane Piccirilli saying the Shenango Valley is lucky to have Longietti representing them.

"We are very appreciative of Mark Longietti getting us the $150,000," Piccirilli said. "It was not an easy task with everything going on but it is a major step toward reaching our goal.

Longietti, in turn, said he appreciated what the shelter staff and board of directors have been able to accomplish in its current headquarters until a new building can be built.

"I want to thank you for all the hard work you're doing and the good progress you're making," Longietti said.

The Keystone Communities Program grant would bring the total amount of funds raised toward the new building to about $530,000, shelter Manager Angelia Sherman said.

Animal shelter officials originally hoped to break ground on a new facility by next spring, which Piccirilli said he hopes is still doable despite fundraising delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Though the grant will help cover costs of a new building, the shelter might have to deal with decreased funding from another state program.

The animal shelter receives a fee of $40, from the state Department of Agriculture, for every stray that is successfully adopted out to new owners. Sherman said collecting that fee requires collecting and submitting all of the adoption paperwork every month and an audit by the state dog warden for Mercer County.

Under the department's proposed budget for next year, that adoption fee will be reduced to $5, an 87% decrease, Sherman said. Longietti said he would argue against the decrease at the state level.

The animal shelter fees for adoptive families are $165 per dog and $100 per cat. Sherman said those figures can range from $250 to $300 elsewhere.

After discussing some potential options, the board of directors agreed to increase fees to $195 per dog and $125 per cat, with some consideration for special circumstances, such as the adoption of older dogs or cats who might have a shorter remaining lifespan than younger animals.

The animal shelter will also receive $10,000 in Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds from the Mercer County Commissioners. Sherman said the funds would go toward losses incurred because of the pandemic. Piccirilli thanked the commissioners and said the grant would help the animal shelter, which experienced a loss in revenue from the pandemic but had to continue operations regardless.

"We had to close to the public so we lost adoption fees, but we had to maintain care of the animals so we had to be fully staffed," Piccirilli said.

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