Friends Defend Women Charged With Animal Cruelty

Reporter: David Tate

Roanoke, VA - Multiple media outlets reported Wednesday that Bonnie Sheehan and Pamela King-McCracken, the two women with Roanoke ties found carrying 140 dogs in a U-Haul trailer from California to Virginia, both faced up to 130 charges of animal cruelty. However, they currently only stand charged with one criminal count each: a Class-E felony, which carries between one and two years in prison.

The number of charges could change if the case is sent to the grand jury. That according to District Attorney Mike Dunavant.

While national outrage continues over the way "Hearts for Hounds" founder Sheehan and her friend, King-McCracken, were discovered along I-40 in Memphis, others who have worked extensively with the group, and even adopted dogs from them, are coming to their defense.

Among them is David Lara who recently retired from the LA County District Attorney's office. His family has adopted two dogs from Sheehan and would do it again.

"There would be a line of 200 people wanting to testify on her behalf of the type of person she is, her character and her general outlook and love for animals," said Lara in a telephone interview from his home in Long Beach, California.

However, Long Beach Animal Services officials say that inspectors were after Sheehan following a noise and odor complaint related to her California kennel. There inspectors found 75 more animals than Sheehan was allowed to have.

John Keisler, who heads up Long Beach Animal Services, said that at the time of the initial inspection on January 12, the animals appeared to be in good health. A follow up inspection for compliance was set for January 17th, the same day Sheehan was arrested in Tennessee. Officials returning to Sheehan's rented space in Long Beach found 21 dogs that were left behind.

An affidavit, filed following the arrest, also shows that Sheehan lied at least once to the state trooper as to the number of animals she was hauling. Sheehen claimed at first she had 40 dogs and then changed the number to 60, knowing the whole time she had 140.

"She doesn't treat animals like that. It's beyond me what happened," said Lara.

"I think there might have been a real issue of her love for dogs and maybe it overcame her emotions or good sense."

Both women will appear before a General Sessions Court for a preliminary hearing on January 24.

If there is probable cause, the District Attorney says the women will be bound over to a grand jury where more charges could come.

Both women remain in jail on $100,000 bail each.