Reporter: David Tate
Roanoke, VA - Police in Tennessee say they found 140 dogs and one cat inside a U-Haul truck that was headed to Virginia from California. Most of the dogs, crammed three or four to a crate, were packed inside. There were also dogs in a white mini-van attached to the truck.
Officers say it's likely the animals hadn't been walked or fed in days, and they were living in their own filth. One of the dogs died, and now two women are facing charges for animal cruelty.
The dogs are being looked after by animal rescue groups in the area.
Bonnie Sheehan and Pamela King-McCracken are being held on $100,000 bail each. Both face at least 128 charges of animal neglect.
The two women ran a California nonprofit called "Hearts for Hounds."
Several months ago, the crew at Angels of Assisi had heard "Hearts for Hounds" may be relocating to Virginia, which alone raised red flags because the group hadn't contacted any local rescue groups for help. So there was no surprise when the crew heard the group was arrested in Tennessee.
However, they say what doesn't make sense to them is how an animal rescue group could put 141 animals through the ordeal these animals were forced to endure.
"A lot of people have big hearts and really good intentions when they go into rescue. But it takes more than good intentions when you run a rescue," said Dr. Michelle Spangler with Angels of Assisi.
Angels of Assisi has plenty of experience in that department. In their transport system, each animal gets its own cage that is strapped in, food and water when needed, and heat or AC depending on the weather. The truck is also clearly marked a pet transport truck. And that's for short trips.
They say a 2,700 mile trip, from California to Virginia, with that many animals is difficult to fathom.
"Animals over a long distance need to be taken out of their crates and walked every 3-4 hours so they can urinate and defecate and if not, those cages need to be cleaned quite frequently. So it takes a lot of work," said Spangler.
Even more baffling is where these animals would have ended up once in Virginia. Both women own homes in Roanoke, which by code would not suffice. A 12-acre Huddleston-area farm, bought by King-McCracken in December, sits seemingly untouched since it was foreclosed in 2010. A weatherization warning sticker is posted on the front door.
According to their website, which has since been disabled, "Hearts for Hounds" had been preparing for an adoption drive in Huddleston this weekend. That adoption drive has been canceled.
It's also important to note that while "Hearts for Hounds" is a registered nonprofit in California, there is no record of the group here in Virginia.
Vince Higgins, a spokesman for the task force which made the arrest, also says there is no evidence yet that the two women obtained an interstate transport health certificate for the animals which is required by federal law.
One certificate for every animal should have been issued after a conditions check by a veterinarian in California.