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Dogged by Animal Cruelty

Posted on Oct 4, 2009 - 7:12 AM
Dogged by animal cruelty
Brattelboro Reformer

BRATTLEBORO -- Two dogs that were rescued in one of the largest animal cruelty cases in American history have found their way to Windham County.

Earlier this month, William Hanson was arrested in Missouri after being on the run from the police for more than three years following animal cruelty charges in Arkansas and Vermont.

Hansonís wife Tammy was arrested in Vermont in July, also after fleeing from the animal cruelty charges that at one point involved more than 500 animals.

After William Hansonís arrest on Sept. 22, authorities were faced with trying to save the more than two dozen dogs he had in his possession.

With the shelters in Missouri largely overcrowded, the Vermont-New Hampshire chapter of The Humane Society of the United States arranged to have the dogs transported to Vermont.

This week, 22 dogs arrived in Vermont and are now being cared for in the animal shelters.

"Animal cruelty is a national problem, and we are happy to help out when we can," said Anna Mefferd, the canine coordinator at the Windham Humane Society.

The two dogs, a collie mix and shepherd mix, are receiving medical attention and will go through temperament tests before they are available for adoption.

Both Truffle and Joseph, which were named in Vermont, are timid, Mefferd said.

Police first searched the Hansonsí property in Arkansas in October 2005 after receiving tips about the condition of the animals there.

Almost 600 abused and neglected dogs were rescued and in January 2006, both were convicted of animal cruelty, but they failed to show for sentencing the next month.

The Hansons were on the run for years, and they ended up in Vermont, where Tammy Hanson was arrested.

In September, after William Hansonís residence near St. Johnsbury was searched and more dogs were discovered, he was cited and told to appear in court on Sept. 14.

After authorities returned for a follow-up inspection, they found he had fled with the animals.

He was later arrested in Missouri.

Some of the dogs that William Hanson took to Missouri with him are the ones that were transported back to Vermont, and two are now at The Humane Society kennel on Route 30.

Joanne Bourbeau, senior state director of the Vermont-New Hampshire chapter of The Humane Society of the United States, said the society has been keeping a close watch on the case for almost four years.

The society offered cash rewards for tips on finding the Hansons, which in the end helped authorities, and the group also paid to transport the animals back to Vermont.

She said people like the Hansons, whom Bourbeau called animal hoarders, are often mentally ill and believe they are helping the dogs who they end up abusing.

"This is hopefully the end of this sad story," she said. "Now weíre hoping we can find permanent, loving homes for them all."

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at or 802-254-2311, ext. 279.

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