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Sonsini Shelter Moving to Former Berkshire Dogs Unleashed
By Brittany Polito, iBerkshires Staff
11:19AM / Thursday, September 15, 2022
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The Sonsini Animal Shelter has been in 'temporary' quarters for four years on Crane Avenue. The nonprofit is looking to move into new quarters in Lenox.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — After about four years in a temporary shelter on Crane Avenue, the Eleanor Sonsini Animal Shelter is moving to just over the Lenox border.

Lee Kohlenberger, owner of the recently shuttered Berkshire Dogs Unleashed, will be serving as the interim manager for the transition after stepping down from the shelter's board of directors.

"When we lost our spot with the city this was kind of a holdover for a year or so, so we've overstayed not so much our welcome but we've overstayed the time we wanted to be there," he explained.

"I can't even say that it worked because it would have worked for a short time, but we've definitely been there too long and this facility, we're adding a quarantine room, a separate cat room, so we're going to go from being able to have eight to 10 cats to 25 to 30 and we're going to be able to go from having eight dogs to 24 dogs."

In 2018, the city pulled its contract to take stray animals to Sonsini and the nonprofit shelter was ordered to leave the municipal-owned building in Downing Industrial Business Park. This brought operations to a smaller location at 875 Crane Ave., which was intended to be temporary.

The move will take about $100,000, which includes outfitting the space to be car friendly and creating a quarantine room. A fundraising campaign will be launched to cover the costs.

Kohlenberger said it is "perfectly set up" for a dog facility and the shelter had been looking to relocate so it just worked out.

Berkshire Dogs Unleashed closed its doors one week ago so that the family can focus on its breeding program Berkshire Poodles.

The couple also owns Berkshire Comfort Dogs — which has provided pooches to many police departments and schools in the county — and would like that to be merged under Eleanor Sonsini as well.

"We were primarily standard poodle breeders when we got into Berkshire Dogs Unleashed and ever since we opened Berkshire Dogs Unleashed it's been just a battle to keep our dogs healthy, having all these different dogs in and out all the time in the overlap and really it just spread myself too thin," Kohlenberger explained.

"And I want to get back to focusing on Berkshire poodles and Berkshire comfort dogs while I oversee this transition. I might do another six months after if it's needed, my hope is that I can just return to my role on the board but whatever the shelter needs, I'm willing to do."

An assistant manager has been hired and hopefully, will transition into a manager position in the next six months. Kohlenberger has been on the shelter's board for about two months.

"Our hope is that this move, even if we're only here for seven or eight years, which is how long our lease is, that we'll be able to in that time fundraise to build our own location somewhere in the county," he added.

The facility on Crane Avenue was formerly being used for storage and the shelter has leased it through the end of the year.

Kohlenberger said Eleanor Sonsini is the only no-kill shelter within 100 miles, meaning that animals will not be put down if they cannot be placed in homes.

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