Bully Breed Rescue president to be arraigned on February 13, 2019
BRIDGEPORT, Connecticut; TUSKEGEE, Alabama––Bully Breed Rescue president and alleged pit bull starver Heidi E. Lueders, 31, can expect to face a howling mob of former donors, volunteers, sympathizers, and miscellaneous other pit bull advocates when she appears for arraignment on February 13, 2019 in Bridgeport Superior Court, following postponement of her original scheduled arraignment on January 29, 2019.
What alleged horse thief-in-the-name-of-rescue Fallon Danielle “Kelly” Blackwood, 24, may face in North Carolina and Alabama is as yet anyone’s guess. Blackwood is believed to have sold at least 51 horses and two goats to slaughter, after acquiring them from owners who offered them “free to good home” via social media.
Five cruelty counts
“As many people as possible need to show up in the courtroom to send a strong message to the judge and prosecutor,” urged the Facebook advocacy group Animals R Family. “The courtroom needs to be packed to the rafters. Bridgeport Superior Court said that people need to be there by 9 a.m., as court starts at 10 a.m., and it takes a while to get people settled, etc. Heidi Lueders could be called first or last. People need to plan on being there all day.”
Lueders is charged with five counts of cruelty to animals for allowing five caged or otherwise confined pit bulls to starve to death in the rented New Canaan, Connecticut home that she herself occupied at the time. Lueders is also charged with one count of criminal damage to landlord’s property by a tenant in the first degree.
Police summoned to the scene by landlord Claire “Celly” Roberts on November 11, 2019 returned with a search warrant the next day, discovering the skeletal remains of the dead pit bulls amid what Animals R Family summarized as “an ocean of garbage, junk, heroin packs, needles, trash, dog feces and dog urine everywhere.”
Crime scene photographs appeared to verify the description.
Checked into mental hospital
Instead of surrendering to police immediately, Lueders according to Animals R Family “checked herself into Silver Hill Hospital in New Canaan,” described as “a very expensive drug addiction and psychiatric hospital, used by celebrities including Catherine Zeta Jones, Mariah Carey, Michael Jackson and Billy Joel.”
Lueders apparently remained there until January 15 2019. Fairfield Police Captain Robert Kalamaras told media the following morning that she had voluntarily turned herself in, and had been released after posting bond of $50,000.
Still conspicuously absent from the charge list are any alleged offenses pertaining to illegal drug use and/or misuse of funds donated to Bully Breed Rescue, both of which have been extensively claimed on social media by former associates of Lueders.
Bully Breed Rescue founder Benedicta “Bennie” McGrath, for instance, posted to the ANIMALS 24-7 web site on November 19, 2018 that Lueders “developed a heroin addiction using donated funds.”
McGrath, an attorney formerly practicing in New Canaan, Connecticut, incorporated Bully Breed Rescue in 2005. Lueders became involved as a volunteer in 2007. Retiring to Florida in 2013, McGrath turned the presidency of Bully Breed Rescue over to Lueders, whose mother Peggy Anderson Lueders joined the Bully Breed Rescue board of directors.
Neither have any charges been filed against possible accomplices, also despite many social media postings by people who purported to have had prior knowledge that Heidi Lueders had become a heroin addict and had lived in filth comparable to what was found in Fairfield at a prior address in Stamford, yet continued to participate in Bully Breed Rescue business with her.
The Lueders surrender for arraignment was reported within the next 24 hours by more than 770 online media, among more than 1,500 periodicals distributed online that have published articles about the case.
The media spotlight is reflective of Lueders’ efforts over the years to establish recognition for Bully Breed Rescue and to make herself a regional media celebrity through public appearances, including participation in televised talk shows.
The attention to Lueders, and to the allegations against her, contrasts with a general lack of media notice of at least 63 other instances of supposed “no kill” animal rescues collapsing in 2018, also often in association with operators abandoning neglected facilities filled with starving, diseased, and deceased dogs and cats.
At least 279 dead dogs in other 2018 “rescue” cases
Altogether, at least 968 dogs were impounded alive from other failed “rescues” around the U.S. in 2018, while the remains of at least another 279 dogs were discovered on the premises, according to media accounts collected from local sources by ANIMALS 24-7.
The count of 279 dogs found dead at “rescues” includes 175 dogs, reportedly mostly pit bulls, whose remains were identified in October 2019 on the property of an elderly woman in Drew County, Arkansas. Other accounts put the total of dead dogs as high as 500. The woman was not charged, and Drew County Sheriff Mark Gober declined to identify her.
Also impounded alive from failed rescues in 2018 were at least 1,218 cats.
The remains of at least 142 more cats were found on the various premises, but in most of the cases no attempt was made to quantify the dead cats, since the condition of the cats found alive was sufficient to file whatever charges could be filed.
At least two hundred seventy-five horses were impounded alive from failed “rescues” in 2018. Just 11 horses were found dead at those locations, in contrast to years when hundreds of dead horses have been found on “rescue” premises.
Alleged horse theft for slaughter
But the major failed horse rescue case of 2018 involved horses whose remains may never be found, because they are believed to have been sold to slaughter in Mexico.
Fallon Danielle Blackwood was arrested by Blount County sheriff’s deputies at a rodeo in Oneonta, Alabama on January 12, 2019, on a 13-count indictment issued in October 2018 “charging her with bringing into the state property obtained by false pretense elsewhere,” reported Carol Robinson of Birmingham Real Time News.
Alabama is the second state to charge Blackwood, a barrel racer and fourth-year veterinary student at Tuskegee University in Macon County, Alabama. Though Tuskegee is historically an African-American institution, founded by Lewis Adams and Booker T. Washington in 1881, Blackwood is Caucasian.
Blackwood was previously arrested at the Tuskegee veterinary school in April 2018, and was briefly jailed, on a North Carolina warrant charging her with similar alleged thefts by fraud.
“Free to good home”
“According to NetPosse, a non-profit that tracks horse theft, 21 people across the Southeast have now complained Fallon Blackwood also took their horses under false pretenses,” summarized Randy Travis of the Fox 5 I-Team. “That’s 32 horses in all,” a number that since then has nearly doubled.
Blackwood told horse owners who offered horses “free to good home” on Facebook or Craigslist that she was seeking a companion for her barrel racing horse, people who gave her their horses have repeatedly stated to media.
If the former horse owners later contacted Blackwood, asking how the horses were, she told them stories such as that they had been struck by lightning and died.