Updated 9:30 p.m. New story alters part of this one.
Updated 4:00 p.m. Tuesday with Court actions in Tennessee:
Updated 12:30 p.m. Tuesday with City's Statement on an Investigation:
The two Hearts for Hounds women arrested Jan. 17 for animal cruelty appeared in court this afternoon and agreed to relinquish the 148 dogs they'd had in a U-Haul truck intending to set up an adoption shelter in Virginia. But the judge in the case, which has stirred up emotions there and here, postponed the matter until Feb. 21.
TV media is reporting that the women posted $100,000 bail today. Actually, they were already released on bail: Bonnie Sheehan posted $10,000 last night donated by an anonymous supporter to secure her release; and Pamela King-McCracken was released after securing her bail with a deed to property, the bail bond company said.
CBS News in L.A. reported that the judge delayed their preliminary hearing in order to learn more about how officials in Long Beach may have been involved in assisting the loading of the dogs the night of Jan. 15--which Patch first reported last night. (See the report below, and the attached city statement on its outside investigation)
Prior report: Supporters of the arrested Hearts for Hounds leader said Monday that Long Beach Animal Control was not only aware of Bonnie Sheehan's U-Haul full of 148 dogs but had helped her load the crates.
In fact, said the organizer of local donors rallying for her defense, the city's officer insisted that Sheehan take all of the dogs in her move to Virginia, not just the 60 she'd planned.
"Bonnie had to go out and buy more crates," said Jay Williams, who has adopted several Hearts for Hounds dogs and has known Sheehan for years. Williams said the officer was concerned there would not be enough supervision of the remaining dogs and even photographed the U-Haul interior. "Bonnie had to reserve a bigger U-Haul at the last minute."
Meanwhile it was reported earlier Monday that the city's acting animal control director was replaced Friday by a colleague unrelated to the Hearts case. The former acting director John Keisler, was not reached until Monday night very late, when he promised a response from the city.
Tuesday, the Long Beach City Manager's Office issued a lengthy statement about the animal care department's visits to Hearts for Hounds/Long Beach Kennel, in a mostly industrial and commercial block off of Anaheim Street. For speed Patch has attached it in entirety. It makes clear that Keisler will remain involved in assisting the outside investigation.
New to the prior information is that a staffer responded, along with Long Beach police, to a call that dog crates were being loaded into the U-Haul Jan. 15. Both agencies responded and found 10 dogs loaded into the U-Haul and those dogs were in good health, the statement said. It does not elaborate on Sunday due to an internal investigation.
A longtime supporter of Hearts for Hounds offered the $10,000 to secure the $100,000 bail under which Sheehan had been held for nearly a week. Due to the heated emotion and comments suggesting the defendants should be treated like the dogs or worse, the donor did so anonymously.
Volunteer Williams has adopted three Hearts for Hounds dogs, has known Sheehan for years and has spoken for supporters since last week. He said Sheehan Monday night was overcome with gratitude "at the outpouring of support" that has come foward since her arrest on animal cruelty charges.
Williams said Sheehan had already taken 30 dogs to Virginia, found homes for all but four she brought back, and understood her California shelter license permitted her to operate nationwide. But an NBC affiliate in Roanoke reported that neither Sheehan nor the Hearts volunteer Pamela King-McCracken had necessary permits or zoning to run a shelter at property each owned in Virginia.
Sheehan, 55, and King-McCracken, 59, were arrested on suspicion of animal cruelty at 8:30 a.m. Jan. 17 by Tennessee state trooper Brad Simpson. He is assigned to the West Tennessee Drug Task Force and a court affidavit stated he was monitoring traffic on the Eastbound I-40 when he observed a U-Haul "swerving across the white painted fog line several times."
The U-Haul, which was towing a white minivan, was also following too closely behind a tractor-trailer, Simpson reported, so he made a traffic stop at the 42 mile marker, which is outside Memphis. He reported that Sheehan said the heavy winds made it difficult to manage the truck so she was following the tractor-trailer closely as a windbreak. When Simpson heard dogs barking and asked about them, Sheehan and King-McCracken said they were moving to Virginia where they hoped to find jobs.
"Simpson found it odd that two subjects would move across country with no jobs and intend on finding employment when they got there," the affidavit states."Due to the extreme nervousness of both the driver and the passeger, Simpson asked Sheehan if he may look in the rear of the U-Haul."
Sheehan told him there were about 60 dogs in the truck and 40 in the minivan being towed.
"It appears the dogs had not been fed or had water and were in a horrible enviroment," the affidavit concluded, stating the investigation was ongoing. It was signed by a judge or a clerk as part of a probable cause determination but because the county could only fax the document, the names and dates were not all readable.
It should be noted that key questions remain unanswered, perhaps because the jailed women haven't had attorneys able to speak for them. Both now have lawyers.
John Keisler, acting director of Long Beach Animal Care Services, has said the department was reviewing its visits to the Hearts for Hounds operation, which leased space at Long Beach Kennel. He said last week that LBACS knew of Sheehan's moving plans but Monday he told the Press Telegram it was not clear if the department was present at Sheehan's Jan. 15 departure.
Tom Modica of the City Manager's Office said Tuesday that the city has been searching for a new director of Animal Care Services for about eight months. He said Keisler had also been doing his regular job as bureau manager in business operations for Parks and Rec, from which the new acting director, Ted Stevens, comes.
In Somerville, Tennessee, attorneys had not yet appeared on the defendants' behalf but a preliminary hearing Tuesday before a judge will perhaps shed more light.
Numerous donors--concerned that media have sensationalized and inflamed the case--have pledged money for Sheehan and McCracken's defense and bail, Williams and others say. Dr. Sam Sherouda has set up an account overseen by Ambassador Long Beach Veterinary Hospital, which treated most Hearts for Hounds dogs at a discount, just as Petco offered that for supplies. Hospital workers say they've been swamped with phone calls.
Previously Keisler said his agency would examine its interaction with Hearts for Hounds prior to Sheehan's departure Sunday night. He told Patch last week that the department Jan. 12 visited the Obispo Avenue kennel on a complaint of barking and odor, and later another about a reported dead dog in the trash, and found neither. He characterized the complant and visit as fairly common in animal care.
But there were found to be "a significant" number of dogs beyond that permitted, Keisler said. He said an officer was to return Jan. 17 with a report of its findings and corrections needed. He did not mention specifically the reported involvement Sunday night but did not suggest Sheehan's departure was evasive, either. The review of the department's actions came after the arrest story turned viral. Fayette County Sheriff's Dept. investigator Ray Garcia said "we've been getting calls from coast to coast."
On Tuesday, the city's statement said the animal care agendy staffer's visit Sunday found 10 dogs in the U-Haul. It also said that the day Sheehan was arrested, Jan. 17, Long Beach's animal services returned for their scheduled visit to report its findings and found 17 dogs remaining boarded at the shelter. Because a Hearts for Hounds staffer did not have documentation of her ownership of the dogs--which were in good health--they were taken into custody until their owners can be demonstrated. They will not be adopted out or euthanized, the city assured.
Regarding the preliminary trial hearing in Fayette County General Sessions Court in Tennessee, the Press Telegram reported that the dog shelter defendants face one count each of aggravated animal cruelty, punishable by up to one to two years in jail, and a $2,500 fine, according to District Attorney Mike Dunavent.
Ambassador Long Beach Veterinary Hospital is coordinating various means of support for the Long Beach shelter operator and volunteer. (562-427-2889).