Supporters are today hosting a celebration and support rally at Long Beach's Bixby Park for Hearts for Hounds founder Bonnie Sheehan and volunteer Pamela King-McCracken - arrested together with crated dogs in a U-Haul and SUV.
"Bonnie and Pam will both be there," said friend Anita Sinclair Saturday night of the rally from 11 a.m. to about 5 p.m. Sunday at the park, at Cherry Avenue and Ocean Boulevard. "It is going to be a wonderful day. We are focusing on love, support and positive energy! Bonnie has saved many, many dogs.
"Now, it is our turn to save Bonnie."
Supporters of the women hope to raise funds to help pay mounting legal bills for their defense case set to unfold this summer. They have assembled a festival-like event with entertainer Ricky Sims performing from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., followed by a blessing of animals, then acoustics by Billy from the OC band Trauma will be performing.
The minister conducting the animal blessing reported that some protestors may show up at the park, but one organizer said, "we'll be roping off an area for the protestors to attempt to keep in one area."
National media attention was trained on the case of Sheehan and King-McCracken, who were Jan. 17 by a state highway trooper for tail-gating outside Memphis Tennessee. In the back of their U-Haul track, the trooper reported crate after crate of dogs; in a towed SUV, he testified that he found scores more dogs in crates--more than 140 between the two vehicles.
Sheehan is widely known in Southern California dog rescue for her years of effort finding homes for thousands of pets. A 2009 USC documentary on the millions of animals euthanized in America focused on Sheehan and a Downey-based regional shelter.(Found on YouTube as Part I and Part II). Those who have been outraged by the allegations of the animals' conditions during transport will jeer the YouTube in which Sheehan can be watched for more than 15 minutes; sympathetic observers who assume Sheehan became overwhelmed by dogs and costs at her shelter and bolted may find it touching.
(Full disclosure: my family adopted from Hearts for Hounds in October, 2010). It is not uncommon to find someone who knows someone with a dog from Hearts for Hounds, which shared property with Long Beach Kennel, a groom-and-room, until January, 2012.
The women were arrested the morning of Jan. 17 as they were headed to Virginia properties they'd purchased and intended to adopt out the dogs from larger more affordable land where people still seemed to be adopting; Sheehan told that locals were not only not adopting but were abandoning dozens of dogs monthly on the streets and her front door. A stream of TV stories in the Roanoke area found no licenses or application to run a dog shelter by the women; supporters said they were struggling to just move the dogs and already had adoptions arranged
The accused women had fairly high bail given the maximum sentence for animal cruelty is about two years. Friends, including a Long Beach veterinarian who may be in the YouTube, collected the money, and drove cross-country to bail them out and take them out of what they viewed as a hostile legal and media climate. The Hearts 4 Hounds Facebook page grew so laden with charged exchanges that it was shut down.
Sheehan supporters have said the prosecutor offered a plea deal that would have ended proceedings that are now set for summer. But they said the term that was the deal-breaker: never owning a dog again.
"For Bonnie?", said one friend. "That's like a death sentence."
The rally invite to media by e-mail:
"Please help our friend Bonnie Sheehan and Pam King McCraken.
All Bonnie and Pam/Hearts for Hounds We will be having a FundRaiser at Bixby Park, 2001 E 1st St, Long Beach, CA 90803 June 3rd, 2012, Time 11am to 5pmish, Pls Plan to attend.
Love to see all our friends and family and supporters !!! We will have entertainment!! Plan on Pot Luck, Picnic whatever. Bring your own drinks and chairs or blankets. We want to keep expenses to a minimum so we can use the fundraising $$ towards helping Bonnie and Pam."
Since Sheehan's arrest, the Press Telegram's Greg Mellen reported, the 55-year-old has become a lightning rod in the animal rescue community, with supporters and detractors taking sides and exchanging online accusations, insults and even threats.
"I wouldn't wish this on my worst enemy," Sheehan, at the center of the sensational case, told the P-T. "And apparently I have quite a few.
"It's heart-breaking," she added, referring to primarily Tennessee and Virginia media, and Facebook posters, "when people distort the truth."