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Unity kennel nears deadline for finding homes for dogs

| Monday, Jan. 14, 2013, 9:31 a.m.
Jeannie Keller hugs Harley, one of the dogs that needs to be adopted from her home kennel, on Sunday, January 13, 2013, in Unity Township. Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review
Dixie, one of the dogs that needs to be adopted from Jeannie Keller's home kennel, photographed on Sunday, January 13, 2013, in Unity Township. Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review
Dixie, one of the dogs that needs to be adopted from Jeannie Keller's home kennel, photographed on Sunday, January 13, 2013, in Unity Township. Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review

Jeannie Keller said she's been working diligently — even on Christmas and New Year's days — to find homes for the dogs in her Unity kennel.

But with a deadline of Jan. 25 to find homes for all but 25 of about 50 dogs she has left, Keller — and the animals — are quickly running out of time.

Keller, who lost a legal battle with Unity over her kennel, said she hopes enough people with good homes will come forward so that none of the dogs end up in a shelter that euthanizes animals.

“We've been working around the clock, trying to get them good homes,” Keller said. “I'm an individual that doesn't believe in euthanization unless the dog is sick.”

In 2010, Unity officials said Keller's Rom-Ger-Am Rott Rescue shelter violated the township's zoning ordinance. During a hearing on the matter, township officials agreed that supervisors had given Keller permission to run a breeding kennel on her one-acre property in 1996 with no more than 12 dogs allowed.

But in 2002, according to court documents, Keller began running a rescue kennel on the property housing nearly 80 dogs as of June 2010.

Township officials would not grant Keller a variance to continue operating her shelter. Her appeals to the Westmoreland County Court of Common Pleas and Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court were denied. And in December, Commonwealth Court ruled that Keller could not appeal to the state Supreme Court.

With her court case at an end, the state Department of Agriculture revoked Keller's commercial kennel license, giving her until Jan. 25 to relinquish all but 25 of her dogs. The license is needed to house 26 or more dogs, according to the department.

Because Unity prohibits the use of her property as a kennel, she no longer can have a license, a department spokeswoman said.

Keller said she would like to see as many of the dogs adopted as possible, even if that brings the number below 25.

Not all of the dogs are Rottweilers, she said. Some are Rottweiler mixes, and she has Labrador retrievers and shepherd mixes.

Though she is desperate to find homes for the dogs, that does not mean she'll give them to just anybody.

“I have to make sure the dogs' going to fit in their family,” she said. “We have to make sure it's going to be a good fit for them as well. ... I'm not going to let a dog that doesn't like children go into a home with children.”

There is a cost to adopt, but it varies from dog to dog. Keller said she needs to charge to recoup medical and food costs.

“We're just trying to survive for the remaining 25 that need us,” she said.

She's also looking toward the future.

Keller is hoping someone might come forward with property they would like to donate or sell to her inexpensively where she would be able to reopen the shelter.

“They took the rescue out of my backyard, but they cannot take it out of my heart,” she said.

Jennifer Reeger is a staff writer forTrib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6155 or jreeger@tribweb.com.

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