Supporters Rally to Defend Arrested LB Dog Rescuer

Those with Hearts for Hounds pets reject the notion that its founder would endanger the 148 dogs she'd rescued and was driving to a Virginia farm. Now the city has shut her kennel, they say.

Have you adopted a pet from Hearts for Hounds? Share your experience and talk about the arrests here in our comments.

A defense fund was created Thursday by a Long Beach animal hospital for those seeking to help well-known known dog rescue activist Bonnie Sheehan, who was arrested in Tennessee for animal endangerment on Tuesday. Sheehan and a rescue volunteer for her Hearts for Hounds group were transporting 148 dogs in a U-Haul truck and minivan under what arresting authorities called filthy conditions.

Sheehan's friends said late Thursday that the Long Beach Room and Groom kennel that formerly housed the 148 rescue dogs was shut down by the city. The has not returned calls to confirm this.

One friend, Jay Williams, speaking on behalf of the arrested rescuers, said that the move of the dogs was planned well in advance and not a rush job, contrary to some reports that suggested the women were fleeing a city inspection. Sheehan has owned a farm outside Roanoke and for more than a year told clients that she needed to relocate the rescue dogs because adoptions have plummeted in Southern California with the rise in unemployment.

Nearly 10,000 dogs were euthanized by Los Angeles County alone last year. (See the accompanying pdf.)

"Anyone who has known Bonnie or Hearts for Hounds for 30 minutes or less knows that Bonnie loves the dogs and was moving them to a state where research showed there were more adoptions," Williams said Thursday. "I created an 800 number just so she could contact me from jail, and I don't think she was given the message. They are still trying to get attorneys arranged."

He added: "It's very sad, because she and Pamela [King-McCracken] had an adoption fair planned and advertised for this Saturday, and those dogs are going to be kept as evidence instead."

Ambassador Dog and Cat Hospital of Long Beach and Sunset Beach (562-427-2889) was accepting donations for the defense of Sheehan, 55, and her longtime friend, King-McCracken, 59. Both were arrested on aggravated animal cruelty charges Tuesday after a routine traffic stop led to the alleged finding: 148 thirsty and hungry dogs enclosed in crates with fecal and urine. Bail for the Long Beach women was set at $100,000 each and a hearing tentatively set for Jan. 24 or 25, friends said.

"Accused murderers or robbers have lower bail than Bonnnie and Pamela do," wrote one rescue volunteer.

Here is the latest local newspaper coverage of the case in Tennessee. Sheehan and McCracken have not been reachable for comment.

The story will be updated as it develops. Have you adopted a dog from Sheehan or Hearts for Hounds, and what was your experience? Tell us in comments.

Nancy Wride (Editor) January 20, 2012 at 11:01 PM
What seems peculiar is for this TV station to quote a volunteer rescue person as an authority on things when I didn't see her title being a leader of any rescue group in Tenn. Several comments she makes, at face, are incredulous and at best, uninformed. 1. that these dogs should have remained in L.A. County as they were "highly adoptable." If that were the case 10,000 dogs a year wouldn't need killing by the county, plus 1,415 in Long Beach. 2. That they needed "climate controlled" transport. In the rich world of dog rescue? 3. That Bonnie stole a dog along the way. Apparently she lacked enough dogs. http://www.wreg.com/news/wreg-144-dogs-and-a-cat-found-crammed-inside-a-uhaul-and-van-stopped-along-interstate-40--20120118,0,76018.story
Deb January 20, 2012 at 11:22 PM
I really dont believe she stole a dog along the way. If anything maybe it was lost and they happened to see it roaming the street and they picked up possibly.
kay ruffini January 21, 2012 at 01:37 AM
I adopted a dog from Bonnie and helped her out on occasion. She was agreat advocate and tireless worker dedicted to saving abandoned animals. No one can dispute all the good she has done. Too bad it took an incident like this to destroy the goodl she has done for homeless dogs. I wonder what possessed her to make the decision to pack over one hundred dogs, several to a cage, into a small U-Haul truck? From what I can gather the dogs were not given water, food or taken for potty breaks during the long arduous drive. I think the stress of trying to handle the constant never ending stream of abandoned dogs at her doorstep caused a desparate action by her that was, in truth, bad judgement. I know the dogs were not mistreated by her intentionally, but the truck was full of feces and urine. I'm sure there are laws about safe animal transport. This presents a situation that the media has jumped on and sensationalized. I hope the dogs are put up for adoption and find homes as soon as it is legally possible.
MIKE CARVER January 21, 2012 at 04:09 AM
I am joining a growing coahilition in Long Beach that is gaining in strength and in numbers and money is flying into the coffers to support the cause of Hearts for Hounds. NOT ONE CENT SHOULD GO TO THE OTHER GROUPS Please feel free to join us, email me at mikecarverindustry@yahoo.com
Kathy Martin Rutledge January 21, 2012 at 05:45 PM
Mike Carver, what does gay bashing have to do with any of this? Were you praying for the 145 animals for those 2 days they were stuff in the UHaul? Is anyone in your area giving thanks for the volunteers caring for the animals and the communinty that has stepped up with donations for their care? All I've seen is a handful of individuals who "purchased" pets from these people trying to make a martyr out of her. She took an "economic" problem she was having and transferred it to another part of the country. And if she notified her local supporters of her cash flow problems and her intention to relocate a year prior to her leaving, why didn't her supporters step up then to help with the problem? She committed a crime, plain and simple.
Jay Nicholas January 22, 2012 at 02:48 PM
Ok- First, I want to thank everyone who has let their voice be heard in support of Bonnie, Pam and the Hearts for Hounds Rescue. Second, the news reports in Tennessee and here locally are failing still to get the correct facts out instead they all keep piggy backing on each others stories and repeating the same nonsense. Bonnie has a GREAT reputation for what she has done for so many years with her rescue its sad some people are so ignorant they believe anything after only hearing one side of the story. PEOPLE NEED TO KNOW: Bonnie pulled out of Long Beach on Sunday evening and was pulled over by the Tennessee Law Enforcement at 8:30am Tuesday morning. That's aprox 1 day and 9 hours on the road. That's it. That hardly cries out animal cruelty and if there was no food or water given to these animals then where did the feces and urine come from? Dogs also don't wait to poop or pee. If they need to go they go and that is sooner rather then later after eating/drinking. Let's think for a second...... How much poop and urine could actually be there on a 1 day 9 hour trip especially if they are saying there was no water or food?? There was only 2 crates that the dogs got out of in the uhaul. A total of 5 dogs were loose which explains poop and urine on uhaul floor.
Jay Nicholas January 22, 2012 at 03:03 PM
Cont: the rescue was not running from the law or avoiding an inspection from the city. This whole move was planned and has been taking place for over a month now. The 1st trip transporting the dogs was already done in December. This was the 2nd and last trip. On Sunday after noon Long Beach Animal Control Officers were at the rescue for several hours and HELPED Bonnie and other volunteers load the UHaul and knew there were over 100 dogs being transported and did not advise or suggest anything to the rescue. Animal control was more interested in making sure they got every dog out so they could lock up the place. There was even a police officer there as they finished loading the last dogs.
Jay Nicholas January 22, 2012 at 04:30 PM
One last thing - If your going to charge someone with animal cruelty after a 33 hour drive (1 day and 9 hours) and call those conditions punishable, then we need to charge the same people who lock their animals up in tiny dog pens in their back yards with feces and urine for weeks at a time. We should prosecute people who leave their dogs locked up in a garage with no air and feces and urine all over while they are out of town for the weekend. Even worse leaving town and locking dogs inside or outside with no food or water and gone for over a week or longer. These are far worse the the short Uhaul trip.
John B. Greet January 22, 2012 at 04:59 PM
Hi Jay: I think your passion is commendable. I think you may also be assuming a few facts not in evidence. Are there laws (local, state, or federal) which regulate the transportation of this many animals and, if so, what do they permit and/or prohibit? Until we know this, it seems silly to assume that no such laws have been violated. If H4H wasn't trying to evade LBAC, why did they depart LB *before* the second scheduled visit, apparently without notifying LBAC they were leaving? If you weren't trying to evade them, wouldn't you have at least given LBAC a call and advised them they could cancel the appointment because you would no longer be in their jurisdiction? How often did H4H stop and, feed, water, and exercise these animals during their journey of 33 hours? How often did they clean the cages? Did the U-Haul have any ventilation? If so, was it sufficient? These all seem, to me, to be reasonable questions. Do you have the answers?
Monica Soto January 22, 2012 at 11:19 PM
Bonnie is a good person who truly loves animals. This just goes to show you how difficult is to care for so many pets in a society that just casts them away at the first sign of personal difficulty. Her mode of transport was not well thought, but notice that she kept fighting the good fight some and no one stepped up to help her move these homeless dogs to a place where they'd stand a better chance of getting adopted.
Monica Soto January 22, 2012 at 11:23 PM
If you're going to charge anyone with animal cruelty, charge SEAACA, the high kill shelter that supplied Bonnie with her dogs!
Nancy Wride (Editor) January 22, 2012 at 11:48 PM
Agree John.Thanks Jay, and is it true that Bonnie's rent was $7,000 a month? The LB animal services director told me the Tuesday visit was to deliver the Thursday visit report. I know key details remain missing. But some context: LB euthanizes every week nearly as many dogs as were in the U-Haul, and even Tennessee officials said beyond clean they were in good shape. Tennessee has a 72-hour max before it euthanizes animals, and a 65% rate of euthanasia compared to the 50% national average. And that number predates the country's economic crisis, which has seen a 46% increase in dog euthanasia in L.A. County, says the spcaLA. Despite the comments in some Tennessee media about how H4H animals could have been adopted out here-wrong. LB animal control knew Bonnie had a no-kill policy, which is why almost daily, dogs were dropped on her driveway or staked to a tree outside, and some of them were truly near-death. So a dog dying in transit would not surprise me. I took a picture of a sweet but starved white pit bull Jan. 2 that a volunteer had come and walked, and the pooch was about half it's normal weight. The Tennessee no-kill organization that put out a press release? It did NOT take the H4H dogs. It claimed it was called because of their famous 'animal cruelty' investigators.' If 3-4 million animals were euthanized in the U.S. in 2012, our problem's bigger than any Army of volunteers can manage. In govt. hands in LB or Tenn., these 148 dogs would already be dead.
John B. Greet January 22, 2012 at 11:52 PM
Monica I am not willing to give a pass to anyone for good intentions. If the facts support a filing of criminal charges in this case, then those charges should be filed. If H4H is held to answer in court, and if the facts support a conviction, then Sheehan and her companion should be convicted. If they are convicted, their intentions properly come into play at sentencing, where a judge can show leniency based upon the totality of the circumstances. The judge can vacate the conviction or pronounce sentence and then suspend it. I keep coming back to the these simple questions: Why did H4H leave town when LBAC had scheduled a follow-up visit and why did they not notify LBAC that they were leaving? Is it reasonable to transport *that* many animals over *that* great a distance and time period, under the conditions which H4H did so? Was there adequate ventilation in the U-Haul? How did they care for that many animals during the trip? What laws apply to transporting this number of animals over that great a distance and time period and did H4H violate them? If they did violate them, the "why" comes into play at sentencing because ignorance of the law is not a valid legal defense.
Nancy Wride (Editor) January 23, 2012 at 12:06 AM
Credit where it is due: Long Beach animal services has lowered by 2.5% the euthanized dogs and cats over 2010, and adoptions were also up. My understanding via e-mails I have received is that people are or already have written letters to the court there out of concern the women will be railroaded, given the tone of the media coverage there. And John, I had a guy email me about U-Hauls and ventilation. He said "you drive a U-Haul for a day and you can write me a letter in the dust on your furniture. Anyone who's driven one knows they are reliably drafty."
John B. Greet January 23, 2012 at 12:27 AM
Hi Nancy: I've driven more than my share of U-Hauls and I agree they are not airtight. However, if there is a statute that requires adequate ventilation for that many animals transported in one, I would be very curious to know what the standard is. I would also be very surprised if that standard proved to be the "write-a-letter-in-the-dust-drafty" standard. Just sayin'
Nancy Wride (Editor) January 23, 2012 at 12:38 AM
I know. But I think we are still not near a clearer picture on this one, and in the meantime, some reality checks are in order. If the city of Long Beach alone is forced to euthanize 125 cats and dogs weekly, that still means these dogs would have been dead here or there.
John B. Greet January 23, 2012 at 02:13 AM
Come on, Nancy, I think it's a vast over-simplification to claim that these animals are no worse off because they may have been killed here if they stayed. That is not a fore-gone conclusion, nor does it address the true issue: The manner in which these animals were transported and whether it was lawful, let alone humane. I haven't heard anyone take exception to H4H moving the animals to VA or anywhere else they might have liked. But from what I can tell, every state has regulations for the import and/or export of domesticated animals. Did H4H follow all of the regulations that applied in every state they transitted? I don't know. http://www.aphis.usda.gov/import_export/animals/animal_import/animal_imports_states.shtml I *have* learned that TN requires that all dogs (3 months and older) and cats (6 months and older) that are transported into Tennessee for any purpose must be vaccinated. Were all of the animals they transported into TN in compliance? I don't know. http://state.tn.us/sos/rules/0080/0080-02/0080-02-01.20110420.pdf CA apparently has a similar requirement. I suspect the other states they passed through do also. In my experience, H4H typically didn't provide a vaccination until *after* the animal had been adopted. Did they fail to vaccinate these animals in this case because they hadn't yet been adopted? I don't know. Questions....questions....
Tanya Marshall January 23, 2012 at 02:31 AM
Yes it has Zuliet, rescuer turns hoarder....really sad. The animals are the ones that suffer.
W Shakespeare January 23, 2012 at 03:26 AM
The man that hath no music in himself, Nor is not mov'd with concord of sweet sounds, Is fit for treasons, strategems, and spoils.
Kathy Martin Rutledge January 23, 2012 at 05:14 PM
annette uthe January 24, 2012 at 04:37 AM
Bonnie has a big heart for hounds and a reputation as a dog lover and protector. Everyday. My 2 daughters and I have adopted our wonderful fur children through her rescue organization. Each were spayed or neutered, micro-chipped and vaccinated and came with recommendations and a trip to a local vet. If there is something that wasn't done correctly on her trip to Virginia, I hope that all the selfless time she spent rescuing and finding homes for animals will be remembered. Please don't put all your energy into condemning.
Natasha January 24, 2012 at 09:17 PM
It is NOT true that vaccinations were not given until AFTER an animal is placed. Especially when you have a kennel/shelter situation, it would be FAR MORE costly & dangerous to allow any potential diseases to spread. If a dog needed a booster before going home, it was because it was just that....a 2nd or 3rd booster vaccination.
Sally Reid January 27, 2012 at 05:26 AM
The good work of Hearts for Hounds is well known in this town. I know of their good work through a number of friends who have adopted dogs from H4H. I stopped by their booth at the Farmer's Market a number of times over the years. I thank Nancy for providing more info. than other media. I just knew that there was "more to the story" than we were reading. Thanks, Jay for your persistance in telling what you know. I believe you. I hope that all who wrote here will stay in touch with the vet and Jay and to continue to and not to let it go until the situation is resolved, People leave dogs because they are desparate and have no other options and don't want to take their pet to the shelter knowing that the chance of he/she being killed is high. Every animal I have ever had has been a rescue, ift I couldn't find a home, he/she ended up with me. I can not bear to drop an animal off at a shelter. So I respect what Bonnie and others have done over the years. Sally
Nancy Wride (Editor) January 27, 2012 at 08:24 AM
Bonnie Sheehan arrived tonight in Long Beach. In good spirits and with close friends and supporters. Asked that I pass that on.
Phyllis Delgado January 29, 2012 at 08:09 PM
Love you Bonnie-I am willing to make donation once address is posted. I adopted my dog from you and she is the best thing that has happened to me since my husband passed away. I bought Tyler as a companion for him while he was ill - my husband thought the world of you as a kind and gentle soul. When I told you he had passed away you offered me another dog in remembrance. I couldn't afford another dog but I will never forget your generosity and kindness. You also helped me find home for a dog I rescued but couldn't keep. Without hesitation you accepted KiKi and found her a loving home even tho it cost you money as she wasn't spayed nor had any shots. I could go on and on. I respect you without question. Phyllis Delgado
MIKE CARVER January 30, 2012 at 05:48 AM
The state attorney general handling this case, Michael Dunavant, wasn't seeking justice for his wife who was killed 2008 in his car and being driven by one Melody Caldwell (who is on his facebook). He was home at the time and I believe he gave Melody Caldwell the keys to his sports car with his full knowledge of her inebriated condition. I believe that he had something to do with her death. That is why he covered it up. He used his awesome power to keep the matter out of the press for nealy 72 hours. The press never covered this sensational case like they are covering a case of a rescue group transporting dogs. This stinks. It is election time and Dunavant is using the old pull the heart strings over one dead dog. I am starting a campaign to open an investigation into Jackie Dunavant's death. I find it odd that this man, who received $200,000 to head a DUI TASK FORCE one week after the death of his wife, let the DUI killer of his wife get off with NO BAIL, NO FINE and A MISDEMEANOR! She is right smack dab on his Facebook. On the chat rooms, his brother came on and said, because I was dredging all this old stuff up...stuff they call painful scabs, his brother said the Mike has been in a foul mood and white faced. Good! When I see the injustice of charging this wonderful woman with a felony while his wife's murder went scott free, I am incensed. I am furious at the hypocracy and corruption in Tennessee.
MIKE CARVER January 30, 2012 at 06:00 AM
What are the laws governing the transportation of dogs? Are there any? What is the usual protocol when a car is cracked up and there was no obstructions nor collusion with another vehicle? Why were no forensics done on the car? Why was the drunk driver released with no bail. Why did she get only one year of a suspended lisense? Why was this considered a misdemeanor? Why was this suppressed by the media? Mike Dunavant was home when the officers came to tell him that his wife had been killed. Why did he not hear them leave in his car, unless it is true that he gave the keys to the driver. What was in the toxicology report? Were drugs involved...Mr. Mike Dunavants family owns a pharmacy. Doesn't any of this raise suspicious to anyone??? Now, he is going after Bonnie and Pam like they are seriel killers. This guy, this Mike Dunavant has blood on his hands...he was involved, it was his sports car. I wonder what his marriage is like because he is now starting a domestic abuse unit. He is also heading a raid on prescription drugs because he has a vested interest since his family sells legal drugs...Oh the web we weave when first we deceive.
MIKE CARVER January 30, 2012 at 06:12 AM
All of this is so stupid. These were dogs being transported in legal carriers, not small children being transported. If the dogs had been transported via air, they would have been in the same carriers, locked in an even more dangerous and stressful condition than a uhaul, I know because my brother is a pilot for a major airlines. The dogs would not have food or water or be walked. If the plane depressurized as happens often, all of the dogs would have died and no big hooplah would have happened like this and the airline would not be accountable on any legal grounds nor would the owners of the animals. Animals, dogs and cats included fly all the time and many die in transport, that is just reality. Many times animals are left on the tarmac, or get out of their carriers in cargo and are killed and this never makes the news.
MIKE CARVER January 30, 2012 at 06:14 AM
What a ridiculous picture, staged by the Humane Society to extract your dollars for their bogus Nazi organization.
julie Sabori April 10, 2012 at 06:27 AM
Just heard the story. I am so sorry, my heart goes out to Bonnie. I adopted my dog "Parker" from Hearts For Hounds almost 4 years ago, he is the love of my life. I know they meant well, they would never mean to hurt any dog ever. I hope everything turns out okay. love Julie and Parker


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