New Sewickley shelter for big dogs allowed to continue operating over neighbor's objections

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Noreen and Richard Kohl can continue to operate Gentle Ben's Giant Breed Rescue in New Sewickley despite a neighbor's effort to shut down the nonprofit, according to a ruling from the Court of Common Pleas of Beaver County.

For nearly 12 years the Kohls saved abused, abandoned and neglected dogs from being euthanized. They took in mastiffs and other large breeds of dogs -- some weighing as much as 200 pounds -- from shelters and organizations that do not have enough room to care for them. They generally have about 20 big dogs in their care, living not in kennels but in the house with them. About 40 or 50 dogs are adopted into new homes each year.

A neighbor, Barbara Layton, complained about the dogs in September 2012. The New Sewickley Township Zoning Hearing Board then ruled that Gentle Ben's was a commercial kennel and could not continue to operate on the couple's two-acre property, which is zoned residential.

Matthew D. Monsour, an attorney with McGuire Woods LLP in Pittsburgh, took the case pro bono -- charging no fee for filing an appeal against the zoning board as well as Ms. Layton and her husband, William, listed as "intervenors" in court documents.

The ruling, which the attorney received New Year's Eve, has significance beyond the rescue operated by Noreen and Richard Kohl.

"This affirms the right of non-profit entities to operate in non-commercial areas," Mr. Monsour said. "This is especially important for private individuals doing good deeds from their homes. The court's opinion supports their right to use their land for these beneficial and not-for-profit purposes."


Linda Wilson Fuoco: lfuoco@post-gazette.com or 412-722-0087.

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