Founders of wildlife center charged with animal neglect

Animals at now-closed center were released, transferred or euthanized

The High Desert Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation logo (Facebook)

BEND, Ore. (KOIN) – The former co-founders of the now-closed High Desert Wildlife Center — a rescue, treatment, education and research facility — have been indicted on allegations of animal neglect, including neglecting a bald eagle.

On Friday, a Deschutes County grand jury delivered a 22-count indictment against Jeanette Bonomo and Jeffrey Dean Cooney.

DA John Hummel told KOIN 6 News he was prepared to release more information on the case late Tuesday.

Bonomo and Cooney are both charged with multiple counts of 2nd-degree animal neglect and violating state wildlife laws with a culpable mental state.

Records show that 18 of the 19 counts pertaining to 2nd-degree animal neglect are misdemeanor offense; however, one is a Class C felony. Second-degree animal neglect becomes a felony when the offense was part of a criminal episode involving 11 or more animals.

The indictment alleges Bonomo and Cooney “unlawfully and with criminal negligence fail[ed] to provide minimum care for an animal in defendant’s custody and control.” The animals listed include an Swainson’s hawk, red-tailed hawk, golden eagles, bald eagle, peregrine falcon, barn owl, northern pygmy owl, saw-whet owl, northern flickers, Canada goose, robin, mountain blue bird and an ash-throated fly catcher.

According to the indictment, between Aug. 1, 2015 and Aug. 31, 2016 Bonomo and Cooney unlawfully held wildlife for more than 180 days, were in possession of a restricted species and failed to maintain required records.

The case was investigated by the Oregon State Police and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The Bend Bulletin and Observer Newspaper reported Cooney and Bonomo were both the co-founders of the High Desert Wildlife Center in Bend, which has since closed.

“Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife took most of the animals receiving care there [in mid-August 2016],” the paper reported.

Michelle Dennehy, the Wildlife Communications Coordinator for ODFW, said she was aware of the organization when reached by phone Tuesday, but did not have immediate knowledge on the grand jury indictment filed against Cooney and Bonomo. Dennehy said she was checking and would update KOIN 6 News with additional information once released.

The 2 newspapers also reported that some animals at the High Desert Wildlife Center were released, transferred or euthanized.

A former volunteer told The Bulletin she stopped working there because she was frustrated by the chaotic and unclean environment. She said bird enclosures were too small and some birds died of starvation or dehydration.

Attempts to reach Cooney and Bonomo for comment were not successful.

The phone number for the High Desert Wildlife center went to voicemail and the organization’s website is down.