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Poodle Breeder's Legal Disputes New to Sonsini Shelter
Staff Reports,
02:42PM / Friday, September 16, 2022
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Eleanor Sonsini Animal Shelter is distancing itself from poodle breeder Lee Kohlenberger Jr. after discovering multiple legal complaints against him. 
 
Kohlenberger told iBerkshires this week that the shelter would be relocating to his Berkshire Dogs Unleashed location in Lenox. He said that operation had closed last week so his family could "focus on its breeding program Berkshire Poodles."
 
However, The Berkshire Eagle on Friday reported that Kohlenberger could face a larceny charge over a customer's complaint.
 
Berkshire Poodles has recently provided "comfort dogs" for free to schools, organizations and police departments around the county, including the Pittsfield Police Department's Winston last year. 
 
In a statement on Friday, the shelter's board of directors said it was "taken aback" about the report. 
 
"At no time during his short tenure as a board member of the Sonsini Shelter did Mr. Kohlenberger disclose his ongoing legal disputes related to his private businesses, including when he proposed that the shelter take over the lease for his closed business Berkshire Dogs Unleashed," the board wrote. "When Mr. Kohlenberger resigned from the shelter's board and offered to facilitate the transition to the former Berkshire Dogs Unleashed facility in Lenox, the board agreed to hire him as an independent 1099 contractor for a set period of six months."
 
The shelter and Kohlenberger's business are in no way merging — as indicated in The Eagle article — and the shelter is seeking full-time staff for when the transition to the new location is completed,  the statement reads. 
 
The Eagle article reported that Kohlenberger had settled "several judgments" against him. He told iBerkshires' that he had closed Berkshire Dogs Unleashed, a training, boarding and grooming operation, because he "spread myself too thin," a reason he repeated to The Eagle. 
 
Kohlenberger's troubles also include a fire in July that burned down his rented home in Becket and killed several of his dogs and a two-year fight over names with another "Berkshire" dog business.
 
The Eagle said it had spoken with a number of dissatisfied customers who claimed they had not been reimbursed for thousands of dollars in deposits on dogs they never got or for dogs that were returned. 
 
Kohlenberger has disputed some claims but told The Eagle he was trying resolve what was a "small few" claims against him during his 12 years in poodle breeding. 
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