About Sunbear Squad
Transforming Animal Lovers into
Animal Welfare Defenders
Sunbear Squad is a non-profit humane organization that seeks to prevent pet and domestic animal suffering by educating and empowering individuals to advocate for animals in a positive and assertive manner. One person helping and one animal helped builds a kinder and more compassionate world.
Download our brochure. Right-click and select "Save Target As" to put a PDF on your desktop.
This site offers all-original knowledge, tools, and inspiration to help individuals prepare to report signs of animal abuse, animal neglect, accidents, and distress promptly. In other words, "Be a Better Good Samaritan for Pets."
We want to prepare individuals to always call authorities when animal abuse, neglect, or distress threatens an animal. We want to make it easier and safer, so everyone will be more confident about doing the right thing. We help everyone be a "Good Samaritan" for pets and animals by reporting animal abuse, neglect, and distress. Here's how:
Our watchwords are: Watch, Listen, Call. We encourage everyone to always WATCH and LISTEN for evidence of animals in distress, and CALL the authorities immediately for expert assistance. Let the professionals decide if there is a problem, if there is a doubt.
We are an all-volunteer, non-profit humane awareness organization with 501(c)3 status. Your donations are tax-deductible to the fullest extent allowable by law. EI number is 14-1932593.
Our organization formed because of the Sunbear tragedy in 2002.
Sunbear was an 18-month-old chocolate Labrador Retriever who was left in a West Virginia townhome laundry room for 6 weeks without food, water or any care whatever until he was discovered just barely alive. He died 3 days later after intensive veterinary care failed to relieve the damage done by severe dehydration and starvation. Animal control officer Gene Fields tracked the owner across the midwest for many months, had him extradited from Indiana, and helped prepare the court case that resulted in his conviction. Over 400 people from around the world wrote letters to the judge urging conviction. The West Virginia legislature has enacted stronger animal cruelty laws and penalties because of Sunbear's ordeal and the groundswell of public opinion that surrounded the case.
Announcing Coonhound Companions!
Sunbear Squad is the fiscal sponsor of Coonhound Companions, a new animal advocacy organization that promotes the adoption of coonhounds into family homes. This group hopes to do for coonhounds, foxhounds, and mixes what some notable organizations have done to publicize the plight of pit bulls and greyhounds. If you know of a family who is thinking about adopting a large hunting breed dog like a lab or retriever, look at coonhounds too. They have wonderful social skills and are outstanding family companions. Please visit the website and blog.
Board of Directors
Read about the people who help bring you this web site (in alphabetical order by last name), and the passions that brought them here.
Gene Fields (Emeritus)
Gene Fields is a former Kanawha/Charleston Humane Association Humane Officer in Charleston, West Virginia with an outstanding career record of 529 wins and 6 losses in court. He was in charge of Sunbear's case, and tracked Sunbear's owner across several states to bring him to justice. He never gave up trying to locate Sunbear's owner. And his persistence paid off. Because of Gene, Sunbear had his day in court.
Sunbear's owner was extradited from Indiana to West Virginia in 2003, thanks to Gene's tough-minded insistance to disbelieving Indiana law enforcement that they absolutely must comply with the extradition order. This may have been the first time in America that a suspect was extradited from one state to another under animal cruelty laws.
A 1985 graduate of the Pennsylvania State University College of Agriculture, B.S. Animal Bioscience. Shortly After graduation I accepted a position at the Central Counties branch of the Pennsylvania Society For The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PSPCA) and within 2 years I was promoted to the agent in charge of this facility. My responsibilities included all administrative duties for the animal shelter as well as policing a multi county jurisdiction for animal cruelty in central Pennsylvania. Being a life time animal lover and serving as a part time animal control officer for Ferguson township while in college, these duties were not totally new to me. Trying to effectively administrate an animal shelter while policing a multi-county jurisdiction for animal cruelty was challenging to say the least so in 2007 when an opportunity became available to work as a humane society police officer exclusively in Lancaster county I accepted it. Having been instrumental in the closing of many of Pennsylvania's puppy mills has been a highlight of my career.
At the end of 2011, after 4 years with The Humane League of Lancaster County, residual effects from a closed head injury I suffered in 1987, forced me into early retirement and I moved to Cape Coral, Florida where I now reside with my significant other Jennifer, my beloved companion Teddy, a Golden Retriever mix and my feathered companion Polly, a Senegal Parrot, and my soon-to-be mother-in-law, the "Pearl" of the gulf.
Through my career I have rescued thousands of animals, herds of horses, entire pet stores full of exotics and dogs and cats far too numerous to list just to name a few. Unfortunately, as the administrator of a full-service animal shelter I have also been responsible for the euthanasia of more animals than I would ever have thought possible which has been a heavy burden on me and a serious factor in my decision to leave the PSPCA.
For over a century, animal shelters have been performing euthanasia on surplus dogs and cats. Historically this has led to include mass drowning and gassing of these helpless victims and rationalizing it by saying we have no choice; there are too many. It now warms my heart to see a movement away from this and see animal shelters believe that through the efficient use of available resources such as rescue, foster, adoption and networking they can truly put an end to these barbaric practices.
Anna Nirva (Founder)
One spring evening in 2004 while researching something for the shelter where I have long volunteered (see photo), I stumbled upon a news release about Sunbear and the sentencing of his owner on the website of the Humane Society of the United States. His haunting eyes in the photo taken while he lay in the shallow creek bed immediately and permanently lodged into my heart and mind. My life has never been the same. I resolved to learn more about Sunbear and Gene Fields, the Animal Control Officer who worked so long to bring Sunbear's owner to justice, so I tracked Gene down and contacted him. We talked many times over the phone.
Gene told me that the saddest part of his job was finding that neighbors frequently did not call law enforcement when they observed an animal being neglected or abused. He told me many tragic stories that could have had very different outcomes if only neighbors would have taken some action. Those conversations planted the idea for a web site to educate and encourage people everywhere to do the right thing when finding an animal in distress, and the Neighborhood Watch was born. The web site launched in January of 2005 and it occupies me evenings and weekends (I work full-time in the corporate world).
I still volunteer at the same regional no-kill humane society on a near daily basis, doing everything from writing Petfinder blurbs and taking photos to maintaining the web site to walking dogs to working on fundraisers. In addition to that, I transport dogs a few times each month. I'm a trained emergency animal rescue volunteer. My husband and I share our lives and hearts with a Coonhound, an American Staffordshire Terrier mix and two lovely, and loving, cats.
Jen Woodard has spent the past eleven years working as a leader in the animal welfare industry to end pet homelessness. Moving to California in 2006, Jen helped create and manage the Animal Services Department in the City of Rancho Cucamonga, was the Director of Animal Control for Kern County, and spent two years with Best Friends Animal Society as the Los Angeles Programs Manager, expanding the Free Fix LA & Pup my Ride programs, and was a founding member of the NKLA campaign. In addition to these roles, Jen owns her own dog training business, volunteers her time helping two local animal rescues, and joined the Volunteers of the Burbank Animal Shelter's Board of Directors as the Development Chair in the spring of 2014. Jen received her Bachelor of Science in Animal Science from Cornell University, her Masters of Science in Wildlife Biology, and her Masters of Business Administration in 2011. Jen shares her home with her husband, 5 adopted dogs and 2 cats.
© 2005-2015 The Sunbear Squad; All rights reserved.
"What we once enjoyed and deeply loved we can never lose, for all that we love deeply becomes a part of us."
Visit our all-original "Bill of Rights for Pets" page. You'll never look at animals quite the same way again.
Read Sunbear's haunting story. Remember, Sunbear died in August of 2002. Take a deep breath and let the anguish pass. Then, resolve that you will never, ever, let this happen as long as you have the power to make a difference.