Long Beach continues investigation into dog-boarding facility
Long Beach animal control officials are continuing to investigate a well-known dog boarding facility whose operators left town days after the department received complaints and were later arrested in Tennessee, where they have been charged with 128 counts of animal cruelty.
Officials say they are interviewing witnesses and working closely with authorities in Tennessee, who are also conducting an investigation.
"Ultimately we want to do everything we can to support their investigation," said John Keisler, acting manager of Long Beach Animal Care Services. "We have a few people who worked and lived near the facility, and we're meeting with those individuals."
This wasn't the first time animal control officials had dealt with the owners of the facility.
In February 2010, the department received a noise complaint about the kennel. The officer who responded to the facility found that the owners had about twice the number of dogs that they were allowed to have, Keisler said.
He said his department worked with the owners for eight months in an effort to reduce the number of dogs to 75, the maximum number allowed in Long Beach.
At the time of the inspection, Keisler said the dogs were in good health and the facility had made improvements over that period. No complaints were filed last year, he said.
"So we were really shocked," Keisler said of this week's incident.
Bonnie Joy Sheehan, 55, and Pamela A. King-McCracken, 59, were arrested Tuesday after they were stopped by a state trooper in Tennessee east of Memphis, authorities said.
The women were driving a U-haul truck that was pulling a minivan. Authorities found 21 dogs inside the minivan and at least 107 others in the back of the U-Haul without any food or water and amid unsanitary, dangerous conditions.
Sheehan and King-McCracken, who have operated Hearts for Hounds in Long Beach for years, left the city Sunday, headed to Virginia for a dog auction.
The Long Beach animal care office received three complaints in the days before they left, Keisler told The Times.
The first one was on Thursday regarding noise and foul odors. Officers inspected the facility and were planning to deliver a notice to comply on Tuesday. But on Sunday, the office received an anonymous call about a dead animal in the trash, according to Keisler.
An officer responded but found no dead animal. After the officer left, the office received another call saying that the women were packing animals into a truck.
The same officer responded again, Keisler said, but it's unclear whether she saw dogs being loaded into the U-Haul.
Keisler said he did not know when the investigation would be completed but said it would take a couple of days for the department to review the reports by the officers who had responded to the location. If any officers were found to be negligent, he said, an internal investigation would be conducted against them.
"Hopefully nothing like this happens again," Keisler said.
-- Ruben Vives
Photos: Bonnie Sheehan, left, and Pamela A. King-McCracken. Credit: WDBJ7.com