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Long Beach police responded as women loaded dogs into U-Haul

January 24, 2012 |  4:07 pm

Long Beach police at dog kennel

This post has been changed. See the note below.

Long Beach police responded to a dog-boarding facility as two women were loading dogs into a U-Haul truck but left because there was no criminal activity, a top city official said Tuesday.

The two women -- Bonnie Sheehan, 55, and Pamela A. King-McCracken, 59 -- were later charged with felony animal cruelty after they were pulled over Jan. 17 in Tennessee with more than 100 dogs crammed into the U-Haul with no food or water, amid unsanitary conditions, according to authorities. Another 21 dogs were in a minivan towed by the truck.

Sheehan and King-McCracken, who founded Hearts for Hounds in Long Beach, appeared in court in Fayette County, Tennessee, on Tuesday and agreed to relinquish custody of more than 140 dogs, a move that frees up the animals for adoption, according to local media reports.

As the pair were preparing to leave Long Beach on Jan. 15, police responded to a call that dogs were being loaded into a truck, said Tom Modica, a spokesman for the city manager.

Police, along with an animal control officer who responded, saw about 10 dogs in crates inside the truck and reported that they appeared to be healthy, Modica said.

"They reported not witnessing any criminal activity," he told The Times.

One witness who saw the officers arrive said she was concerned for the well-being of the animals because they were being loaded onto the back of a truck that had no windows or ventilation.

"Why were they going to keep them all cooped up? ... It totally raised alarms," said Deayna Palumbo, 30, who was on an apartment balcony across the street.

"I'm a huge animal lover," she added,  "and that didn't seem right to me."

She took photos of the officers on the scene but said she saw no animal control officer. The photos show three police cruisers, one with its lights on, parked next to the U-Haul.

The animal control officer also responded later that day to a complaint of a dead animal in a trash can, but she found no animal, city officials said.

The response by police and animal control officers is under investigation by an outside firm hired by the city, Modica said.

He said the investigator would also probe allegations that the animal control officer helped Sheehan and King-McCracken load dogs onto the U-Haul.

"We want to make sure that policies and procedures were followed," he said.

Anyone with information about the case is asked to call Long Beach officials at (562) 570-3200.

[For the Record, 4:25 p.m. Jan. 24: An eariler version of this post inccorectly reported that Modica was the city manager.]


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Photo: Long Beach police responding Jan. 15 to a report of dogs being loaded into a truck. Credit: Deayna Palumbo