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The dog was an unfortunate victim of a series of circumstantial, criminal, and bureaucratic events that were both frustrating and tragic for everyone involved.
Heidi went missing from the Mill’s family 60 acre-farm in Akron, Alabama, where she was free to roam the property as most dogs do in the area. On February 10, Heidi disappeared without a trace. At first, Jack Mills thought she might have been hit by a car or gotten into poison and died. The family searched for her, but could not find her. Then they heard that Hale County Animal Shelter, operated by the Hale County Humane Society, had been closed down. Had Heidi been there?
During the same period that Heidi went missing, Greensboro police were investigating allegations that Kernan "Dee" Sullins, director at Hale County Animal Shelter, was dealing prescription drugs from the shelter. After police received a tip, they were able to raid the building on February 15. Sullins was charged with two counts of possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia after law enforcement raided the shelter. Police say Sullins was found in possession of ketamine, a drug used to euthanize animals, and Lortab, a prescription painkiller.
At the time of the raid, Assistant Police Chief Michael Hamilton said that he noticed a pure bred Great Dane in one of the cages. Hamilton says he now believes that dog was Heidi, but he had no way of knowing that at the time. A veterinarian from Greensboro also said she saw a Great Dane at the shelter after the raid. But how had Heidi ended up at the shelter?
After Sullins was arrested, Hale County resident Amy Nevin stepped forward and told police she had witnessed Sullins take the Great Dane a week earlier. Nevin had contacted the shelter in January about her missing Great Dane. A month later Sullins called her and offered to help. He had told her he had seen a Great Dane near Akron. So she and Sullins went to the location and found the dog near a fenced cow pasture.
"She was a beautiful Great Dane," Amy Nevin said. "Dee couldn’t catch her. So I opened the door and she got in." But she immediately knew by its color that this was not her dog. This dog was black with a white chest blaze, the same as Mills' dog, Heidi. Amy Nevin described the dog as well-behaved and trained to shake and sit. "I told him this is definitely someone’s dog," she said.
For whatever reason, Sullins took Heidi anyway, despite the fact that Hale County Animal Shelter was an intake-only shelter and he did not have the authority to pick up animals himself. Nevin says she believes Sullins was simply doing his job when he took the dog.
On March 7, Sullins was charged again by police, this time for the theft of Heidi. Sullins made bond and police said that at the time, he knew where the dog was and would help them get the dog back. Sullins hoped the charges of theft would be dropped if Heidi was returned to Mills. However on February 20, Heidi had been transported from the now closed Hale County Animal Shelter to the Greater Birmingham Humane Society (GBHS) along with all of the other animals that had been housed there.
When Jack Mills learned that Heidi had been at Hale's shelter, he contacted the Greater Birmingham Humane Society right away. At the time, officials with the GBHS told various news outlets that they had learned that Heidi's owners were trying to find her. However when Mills contacted GBHS, he said they were anything but cooperative. "I never got much response from them. It was almost like I was being stonewalled," said Mills.
So Mills contacted the veterinarians from Greensboro clinic to see if they could help. The clinic contacted GBHS and received confirmation that Heidi had been at the shelter, however, she had already been adopted out. GBHS told various sources that employees could not give the location or new owners of Heidi because of confidentially agreements.
Jack Mills decided to fight for his dog - after all, she had been stolen, so how could she legally be adopted out? Said Mills: "I get frustrated that they are being so obstinate. I'm just totally blown away with people assuming this was handled correctly. It wasn't."
The GBHS sent an email a few weeks ago to concerned individuals - the shelter said at the time 'Heidi'... was "no longer in [its] care". After much back-and-forth, Greensboro Police Chief Willie Hudson decided to visit GBHS in person on Monday, March 19 to clear up what had happened to Heidi.
It was then that he was told the sad news that Heidi had been put down. "Officials there told him [Chief Hudson] that Heidi had been put down because she wouldn't eat or drink, go to the bathroom and was basically unresponsive."
After the meeting, GBHS published a signed letter from Chief Hudson seeming to indicate that police had cleared any wrongdoing, and saying that they had 100% followed policy with regards to the animals received from the Hale County shelter.
However, Chief Hudson told a local newscast that, while the shelter wrote the letter and he signed it - he now questions its interpretation and the nature of its use. Chief Hudson says the matter and handling of Heidi remains an actively open investigation, and has asked Hale County's district attorney to assist.
Chief Hudson says they have been given three stories about Heidi from GBHS..."one, they didn't have the dog...two, it was adopted...and then this latter, it was put down."
GBHS has not released a statement at present.
Chief Hudson called Heidi's family and let them know the sad news that Heidi had been put down.
This confusing and contradictory set of stories means that the circumstances of how and why Heidi was put down remain unclear, as does why concerned parties were lead to believe the dog had been adopted. At this point, there are still more questions than answers in the investigation into Heidi's theft and handling thereafter.