Skip to main content

Ohio animal rights activist kills herself, 31 rescue dogs, police say

By Haley Draznin, CNN
November 11, 2013 -- Updated 0202 GMT (1002 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Founder of Animal Rights Foundation found dead in running car with 31 rescue dogs
  • Investigators found prescription vials in the vehicle and a suicide note inside the house
  • One dog survived and is recovering at home with founder's husband and son

(CNN) -- The founder of an animal rescue organization in Ohio committed suicide, taking dozens of pets with her, the Moreland Hills Police Department told CNN.

Sandy Lertzman, 62, founder of the Animal Rights Foundation, was found dead November 4 inside her garage in a running car alongside 31 small rescue dogs, police said.

Investigators found prescription vials in the vehicle and a suicide note inside the house.

According to Sgt. Janet Boehler, a friend discovered Lertzman's body. It is unclear how long Lertzman and the pets had been dead before they were found. Lertzman was last seen alive November 3.

Family rescues dog that was shot
Cop finds dog tied up, giving birth
Rescue dogs help save flood victims

An organization that rescues and rehabilitates all types of animals, Animal Rights Foundation considered Lertzman a pioneer in animal rescue.

"She woke every day to help all of God's beautiful creatures. She fed the deer, squirrels, birds, raccoons, geese and what she called 'Sandy's Safe Haven For All Animals' at her home,'" a statement on the Animal Rights Foundation website said.

According to Boehler, one dog survived. Police say it jumped out of the car, and they found it in garage when they entered the home.

The surviving dog is recovering at home with Lertzman's husband, Rick, and son, Matthew.

"Animal Rights Foundation will continue, as strong as ever, in Sandy's memory," the organization said on the website. "We will go on caring, supporting, and helping all animals in distress and supporting laws to protect our animals in her honor."

Animals returned to widow after husband frees exotic animal, shoot self

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
This looks like a ghost ship, but it's actually the site of a tense international standoff between the Philippines and China.
July 26, 2014 -- Updated 1555 GMT (2355 HKT)
The reported firing of artillery from Russian territory is a sign Vladimir Putin has escalated the Ukraine battle, says CNN's military analyst Rick Francona.
July 27, 2014 -- Updated 0846 GMT (1646 HKT)
The young boy stops, stares, throws ammunition casings at the reporter's feet without a word.
July 27, 2014 -- Updated 1237 GMT (2037 HKT)
A picture taken on June 28, 2014 shows a member of Doctors Without Borders (MSF) putting on protective gear at the isolation ward of the Donka Hospital in Conakry, where people infected with the Ebola virus are being treated. The World Health Organization has warned that Ebola could spread beyond hard-hit Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone to neighbouring nations, but insisted that travel bans were not the answer.
The worst ebola outbreak in history spreads out of control in West Africa. CNN's Michael Holmes reports.
July 26, 2014 -- Updated 0048 GMT (0848 HKT)
Sure, Fido is a brown Lab. But inside, he may also be a little green.
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 2006 GMT (0406 HKT)
ITN's Dan Rivers reports from the hospital where those injured by an attack in Gaza were being treated.
July 28, 2014 -- Updated 1303 GMT (2103 HKT)
Photograph of an undisclosed location by Patrycja Makowska
Patrycja Makowska likes to give enigmatic names to the extraordinarily beautiful photographs she shoots of crumbling palaces.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 0804 GMT (1604 HKT)
When the Costa Concordia and its salvage convoy finally depart Giglio, the residents will breathe a sigh of relief -- and shed a tear.
July 25, 2014 -- Updated 1808 GMT (0208 HKT)
Flight attendants are wearing black ribbons to show solidarity with fallen colleagues in "a tribute to those who never made it home."
CNN joins the fight to end modern-day slavery by shining a spotlight on its horrors and highlighting success stories.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT