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November 5, 2009

The HSUS Praises Judge for Just Punishment for Convicted Animal Abuser

BAXTER COUNTY, Ark. — The Humane Society of the United States praised the sentence meted out to convicted animal hoarder and onetime fugitive Tammy Hanson by Judge Van Gearhart of the Baxter County, Ark., District Court. On Wednesday, nearly four years after her conviction on 20 counts of animal cruelty at her compound, Hanson received a sentence of one year in jail. Additionally, Hanson was ordered to pay $10,000 in fines, $3,000 in court costs and $5,000 in restitution to The HSUS. In October 2005, The HSUS spent more than $100,000 to care for and re-home 500 badly neglected animals seized by authorities from Hanson's property. More than 100 of the animals were displaced victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Hanson and her husband William, each convicted in 2006 on multiple charges of cruelty to animals in the case, fled Arkansas before sentencing, and were found living in Vermont this past July. Baxter County Sheriff John Montgomery worked with his counterparts in Vermont and Missouri to bring the couple to justice. 

"The conditions under which the animals lived and suffered at her compound were horrendous, and this is a just punishment," said Desiree Bender, The HSUS' Arkansas state director, who worked with staff colleagues and volunteers to set up an emergency sheltering operation at the Hanson property after Baxter County Sheriff's Department raided it. 

Following its October 2005 emergency deployment at the Hansons' compound, The HSUS worked closely with Arkansas law enforcement authorities to develop leads and to bring the Hansons to justice. The HSUS paid out two rewards to tipsters who led authorities to William Hanson in Missouri in September 2009.

The Hanson case served as an impetus for the passage of Arkansas' first felony animal cruelty law this year.

William Hanson is in jail in Johnson County, after a court appearance on an extradition warrant on Oct. 21, in the 17th Judicial Circuit Court at Warrensburg.

Animal hoarding affects as many as several hundred thousand animals every year in the United States, with more than 1,000 cases arising annually. Hoarding cases place a significant financial and practical strain on local humane societies and law enforcement agencies.

Timeline:

  • Oct. 21, 2009 — Extradition hearing for William Hanson in Warrensburg, Mo.
  • Sept. 25, 2009 — Tammy Hanson extradited from Vermont to Arkansas.
  • Sept. 22, 2009 — William Hanson apprehended in Missouri, relinquishes 20 animals to The Humane Society of Missouri, and The HSUS transports them to Vermont for adoption to loving homes. The HSUS pays two tipster rewards in the case.
  • July 18, 2009 — Tammy Hanson apprehended and held in Vermont.
  • July 31, 2009 — New Arkansas anti-cruelty law, partly inspired by the Hanson case, takes effect.
  • Feb. 24, 2006 —  Tammy and William Hanson, convicted on 20 counts of cruelty to animals in Baxter County District Court, failed to show up for their sentencing hearing. Judge Van Gearhart issued warrants for their arrests. Tammy Hanson is also wanted by Lawrence County, Mo., officials for failing to appear in circuit court. That charge was for multiple counts of theft of animals that were previously rescued from Baxter County.
  • Jan. 16, 2006 — Tammy and William Hanson were found guilty on 20 counts of cruelty to animals.
  • Nov. 21, 2005 — Baxter County District Judge Van Gearhart ruled that 327 animals found in filthy conditions at the so-called sanctuary could be relocated and adopted into new homes. Gearhart denied the Hansons' request to regain custody of the animals, mostly dogs.
  • Oct. 22, 2005 — Tammy and William Hanson were arrested on charges of cruelty to animals — a Class A misdemeanor punishable with fines up to $1,000 and with up to one year in prison. Law enforcement flew over the property after receiving tips more than 100 dogs from the Gulf Coast — victims of Hurricane Katrina — were being held there.

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The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization — backed by 11 million Americans, or one of every 28. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty — On the Web at humanesociety.org.

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