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
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1049 GMT (1849 HKT)
British PM David Cameron has had the narrowest of political escapes.
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 0106 GMT (0906 HKT)
British journalist John Cantlie hadn't been seen in nearly two years. Now, he's the latest hostage to be paraded out by ISIS.
The burial leader. The hospital gatekeeper. The disease detective. All telling powerful, stories from West Africa.
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 2303 GMT (0703 HKT)
Alibaba's IPO is unlike anything investors have ever seen and could threaten other online retailers. Maggie Lake reports.
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1226 GMT (2026 HKT)
Indian PM Narendra Modi has said al Qaeda will fail if it seeks to spread its terror network into his country.
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 1201 GMT (2001 HKT)
Put yourself in the shoes (and sixth-century black robes) of ISIS' Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the mysterious boss of the terror group.
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1939 GMT (0339 HKT)
 Tennis Player Li Na attends the WTA Pre-Wimbledon Party as guests enjoy Ciroc Vodka presented by Dubai Duty Free at Kensington Roof Gardens on June 19, 2014 in London,
Asia's first grand slam singles champion Li Na has called time on her 15-year tennis career.
Jenson Button has some of quickest reactions ever shown at an advanced sports lab.
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1124 GMT (1924 HKT)
Creative companies with quirky ideas find new lending models advantageous.
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 1409 GMT (2209 HKT)
Even death couldn't part two skeletons excavated from a lost chapel in an English county, found with their fingers entwined.
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1007 GMT (1807 HKT)
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT