128 dogs were found crammed 4-5 dogs to a crate in the back of a U-haul truck this Tuesday. Photo Credit: Kyle Kurlick/AP

Adrianne Gallatin, Global Animal

When Tennessee police pulled over Bonnie Sheehan and Pamela A. King-McCracken’s moving vans Tuesday and smelled something rank, they expected to find drugs.

Instead they found 130 animals, some crammed five to a crate, being transported in the minivan and U-haul without food, water, or ventilation. The two women were moving Sheehan’s dog rescue organization, Hearts for Hounds, from Long Beach, California, to Virginia, authorities say. The 129 dogs and 1 cat had been without food or water in this tiny space filled with excrement since Saturday, January 14. 

Further investigation by a news team in Roanoke, VA found that these two women were most like relocating there, but shortly thereafter the “Hearts for Hounds” website was taken down (see video below). The drive these animals had almost completed would have been 2,500 miles long. 

Only one dog out of the 130 animals was found dead, but many were emaciated, dirty, and panicked. 

This is from the Hearts for Hounds Facebook page:

“While under the care of Hearts for Hounds, these dogs have time to relax, receive the necessary medical treatment and find a forever home when they are ready. Our goal is to find a loving home for every dog we rescue.” 

The scene in Tennessee on Tuesday seems completely incongruous with this message. 

Diana Chapman, a former contributor to the San Diego Union Tribune, wrote about Bonnie Sheehan on her blog in September 2011. She wrote about Sheehan’s long history with animal rescue, about Sheehan giving up her designer lifestyle for a low-paying job rescuing and adopting out dogs. She wrote about the thousands of dogs Sheehan had saved from death row and put in loving homes.

So what brings someone so loved by their community, someone who loved animals so much she gave up her wealth to help them, to treat animals this way? Diana Chapman talked to Sheehan in September about how the economy had crippled Hearts for Hounds.

“It wasn’t until this year, the flagging economy struck hard at her work. She’s now seeking to make drastic changes so she can save the remainder of her 60 canines.  Perhaps, she believes, the thousands of folks who adopted her dogs will come rescue Hearts for Hounds.  A $10 donation from each person who adopted from her could save everything.” — Diana Chapman, “The Underdog for Kids,” September 9, 2011

Global Animal also found old Facebook posts from both the city of Long Beach and fans of Hearts for Hounds pleading for aid and donations to keep them in business, and eventually to help them on their journey to Virginia. The majority of Yelp reviews of both Hearts for Hounds and the Long Beach Kennel Room and Groom (both owned and operated by Sheehan) are positive, and any negative reviews never mentioned any kind of apparent abuse. Perhaps this couple succumbed to the stress and urgency of rescuing animals as well as the inability to say no, which led them to this tragic end.

Now that animal control has transported the 129 live animals to Tennessee shelters, Global Animal will keep track of their progress. Currently the manager of the Collierville Animal Shelter stated that the animals had been transported to an east Memphis warehouse where they will be evaluated, and that they will not be available for adoption until the criminal case had been resolved. 

Currently Sheehan and McCracken are in jail with $100,000 bail each, and Global Animal will keep you posted on how the criminal case pans out. They each face 128 counts of aggravated animal cruelty, which is a Class E felony. 

Read the entire story at Commercial Appeal: http://www.commercialappeal.com/news/2012/jan/17/authorities-find-120-dogs-u-haul-fayette-county/

Read Diana Clayton’s blog about Bonnie Sheehan: http://theunderdogforkids.blogspot.com/2011/09/bonnie-sheehan-with-dog-named-alley-one.html




  1. Totally agree Kimberly. If the reason is that these live creatures are “evidence,” that doesn’t wash, cause only photos and videos (and eyewitness testimony) will show what condition they were in when found. I assume the shelters will take better care of them and nurse them back to health. Yet, I dare not think about what couldl happen to them in shelters if they [the shelters] need room for more.