This site offers free information, tools, and inspiration to help you start and maintain a Neighborhood Watch for Pets or help any companion animal in need.
The site is published by Sunbear Squad, Inc., an all-volunteer, non-profit humane awareness organization with 501(c)3 status incorporated in Wisconsin. Donations are tax-deductible to the fullest extent allowable by law. EIN number is 14-1932593.
Our organization formed in reaction to Sunbear’s death
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. Neighbors on both sides of him did not call the authorities; maybe they didn’t hear him bark or whine during those weeks of extreme suffering. 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.
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 (1952-2017)
Gene Fields was a Kanawha/Charleston Humane Association Humane Officer in Charleston, West Virginia for 20 years 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 insistence 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.
Gene was involved with the founding of Sunbear Squad and provided guidance and encouragement to the organization and the web site for many years.
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 original web site launched in January of 2005.
Born in Minneapolis, MN. in 1949 and graduated for the University of MN. – Morris in 1971 with a BA in sociology. Married with two children and two rescue dogs. Live in Wyoming, MN. and have been a rural mail carrier since 1986 (full-time since 1994).
My lifetime companion animal related activities/experiences began late in my life. From 2000-2001 with Northwoods Humane Society (Forest Lake, MN.) helping with adoption days. From 2001-2007 with St.Francis Animal Rescue (Forest Lake, MN.) helping at adoption days, transporting, fundraising, doing foster care. From 2004-now with CARES (Wyoming, MN.) helping at adoption days, events, dog training, fundraising, dog walking, and doing foster care.
We have adopted two of our foster dogs one of which was a puppy mill breeder dog. One of our current dogs has many allergy problems and she is eats special food, has weekly baths, and is well-known at the vet!
My participation in the various activities of the humane society/rescue groups has opened my eyes, mind, and heart to the state and plight of companion animals in the world today. We must educate the public on all aspects of animal welfare from spaying and neutering, training, proper nutrition to puppy mills.