Animal rescue: A canine adoption service is saved by a judge

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It’s a big win for the big dogs.

On the last day of 2013, the couple who run Gentle Ben’s Giant Breed Rescue in New Sewickley learned that a judge in Beaver County Common Pleas Court had ruled in their favor, allowing them to continue saving large dogs that had been abused or abandoned.

That makes it a happy new year for Noreen and Richard Kohl, not to mention the 25 mastiffs, Newfoundlands, Great Danes and other breeds that are usually in their care at any one time while awaiting adoption. The Kohls’ operation on the 2-acre property and in the 4,000-square-foot house was challenged by a neighbor in the rural township who said there were noise and safety issues.

After holding hearings, the township’s zoning board ruled last spring that the Kohls’ service was a commercial kennel and that it could not continue to exist in a residential-zoned area. The couple appealed the decision to Common Pleas Court.

On Dec. 27, Judge John P. Dohanich reversed the zoning board’s decision and said the Kohls were not operating a commercial kennel. He said Gentle Ben’s was a non-profit corporation approved by the Internal Revenue Service in 2008 as a non-profit public charity. It is licensed by the state and inspected by the local dog warden twice a year.

Although they accept donations and adoption fees, the owners do not profit from their service, which has operated for 12 years and finds homes for 30 to 50 neglected large dogs annually. The couple has spent $56,000 in personal funds to care for the dogs, which are fed in the house and stay inside at night.

Judge Dohanich’s common-sense ruling is good not only for the couple and the dogs they place in welcoming homes, but also for the community, which has an interest in seeing that all animals are treated properly and not abused.

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