Dog Rescuer Bonnie Sheehan Rescues Her Future: Pleads Guilty in Return for Probation

MY TURN - My friend Bonnie Sheehan, who has rescued thousands of dogs in and around Long Beach, pled guilty this week to 14 misdemeanor charges of animal cruelty in Tennessee after a failed attempt to transport her dogs across country.  She received two years probation and a $500 fine and is prohibited to have any animals during her probation.

Sheehan, 55, ran Hearts for Hounds in Long Beach for 15 years but decided to leave the area due to the souring economy.  In January, she and a friend, Pamela King McCracken, were taking  140 dogs in a U-Haul trailer to a farm in Virginia they recently purchased when they were stopped by state patrol officers.

Following the guilty pleas, the judge refused to expunge her record although she has no criminal record. All charges against Pam were dropped. Bonnie told the court that, as the driver, she was to blame.

Bonnie built a loyal following with her adoptions in California, and supporters raised thousands of dollars for attorney fees. Several went to Tennessee to testify on the two women's behalf.

"We are so grateful we had all this support," Bonnie told me this week as she drove to Virginia with a great sense of relief that she won't be headed back to jail. "We are blessed. I'll always go through life so humbled by the people who did so much."

The officer pulled them over on I-40 in Tennessee and called in animal control officials.  The two women were plunged into a world of turmoil and were charged with felony animal cruelty for allegedly overcrowded conditions. While Pam was able to post her bail, Bonnie spent seven days in jail.

The women can relax at last, said a friend.

District Attorney General Mike Dunavart, who prosecuted the case, told news media that Bonnie basically took all the blame to save her friend.

"She is absolving Ms. McCracken," Dunavart told the media. "She's essentially falling on the sword and saying: 'I abused them. I am responsible.' "

It doesn't surprise me that Bonnie would do this for Pam, a stalwart volunteer who had religiously helped Bonnie in her full-time quest to save thousands of small dogs.

For me, it's sad the two women didn't make it to Virginia this time. If they had, her supporters likely would have been celebrating huge numbers of adoptions instead of working so hard to keep the women out of jail. In an earlier visit to the farm, Bonnie had adopted out 28 dogs with many other adoptions pending, waiting for the other dogs to arrive.

While Bonnie was obviously relieved, it makes me sad that it came to this after seeing news reports of people cutting dogs heads off, torturing animals in horrible ways and still others putting dogs in illegal dogfights where they are often maimed or killed.   Football player Michael Vick -- after being found guilty of holding horrendous dog fights wants to adopt a dog for his children.  But not Bonnie for the next two years?  


On the other hand, Bonnie has dedicated her life to taking dogs from death's door, cleaning them up, treating them for illnesses like mange and making them beautiful again for adoption. This is how my 83-year-old mother adopted Dara, a 3-year-old Havanese.  The two are inseparable.  My sister adopted Lily, another Havanese,  and my family brought home a bearded collie/poodle mix we call Baxter.

Bonnie, who has been haunted by the loss of the dogs, several of which were her own personal animals, is ready to turn the page.

"I'm going to have a normal life now," she said. "I can go to work at Rite Aid."

(Diana Chapman is a CityWatch contributor and has been a writer/journalist for nearly thirty years. She has written for magazines, newspapers and the best-seller series, Chicken Soup for the Soul. You can reach her at: or her website:

Vol 10 Issue 59
Pub: July 24, 2012