FAYETTE COUNTY, TENNESSEE — A traffic stop Tuesday morning in Fayette County led to the discovery of 145 dogs and one cat in a U-Haul moving truck, and has landed two women behind bars on animal cruelty charges.
Bonnie Sheehan, 55, is charged with Animal Cruelty and following too closely to another vehicle, which likely led to the traffic stop. Pamela A. King-McCraken, 59, is also charged with Animal Cruelty.
Both are in the Fayette County Jail on a $100,000 bond with a January 24th scheduled court appearance.
The stop was done by Tennessee State Trooper Brad Simpson of the West Tennessee Drug Task Force near exit 42 on Interstate-40. He said the animals were being kept in deplorable conditions.
In many cases four or five animals were squeezed into animals carriers and makeshift animal carriers without food and water. Other dogs were running loose in the non-ventilated truck, and urine and feces were everywhere. One dog had died.
“They just haven’t stopped crying since we’ve been here. It’s very hard to listen to,” said Gina Thweatt of Fayette County Animal Rescue.
Thweatt was on the scene when the dogs were being unloaded at a Pilot Truck Stop just off the interstate.
“The smell is absolutely horrific. One officer about got sick. He couldn’t handle the smell,” Thweatt added.
Sheehan and McCraken are associated with an animal rescue group called Hearts For Hounds. According to its website, Sheehan founded the Long Beach organization in 1997. An investigator said the women were coming from California and headed to Virginia to put the animals up for adoption.
Hearts For Hounds’ Facebook page had blown up with comments on what happened, and was later taken down.
Tuesday night the animals, mostly small-breed dogs, were being held in a special ASPCA shelter in Memphis that had been set up during the May flood. They will be at the facility for an undetermined amount of time.
“We understand they have not been out of their crates since Saturday, so after we get everybody settled in we’re going to give them a nice little walk and a nice little fluffy towel to sleep with tonight,” said Nina Wingfield, Director of Collierville Animal Services.
“We have a vet on the scene that will look at every dog and make sure there are no health issues,” Wingfield added.
At this point, only trained caregivers from Mid-South rescue organizations will care for the dogs since there is an open criminal investigation, and the dogs need to be checked out. No volunteers were needed as of Tuesday night, however donations to the ASPCA would be accepted.
“They’re scared, and scared animals bite out of fear. So we want to keep everybody safe and the dogs safe. If they bite someone, then we’ve risked their lives,” Wingfield said.