The El Dorado Hills woman accused of animal abuse says her animals have not been neglected after local authorities raided her home on Tuesday and seized more than two dozen of her dogs and found two puppies dead in his freezer.
“Please don’t believe what they say in the media,” Sandi Tidwell wrote on Facebook in a private post reviewed by The Sacramento Bee. “All the dogs were fed, given (sic) water all day and loved.”
El Dorado County officials arrested Tidwell, who runs an organization called Sierra Nevada German Shepherd Rescue, at his home after receiving “multiple complaints of a stench of feces” coming from his Tea Rose Drive property.
While serving a search warrant on Tuesday, deputies and animal control officials seized 25 live dogs and found two more dead on the property, said El County Animal Services Chief Henry Brzezinski. Dorado.
Tidwell’s organization said the dead dogs – puppies that were in the freezer – were waiting to be buried.
Tidwell’s Dog Rescue is one of dozens of nonprofit organizations in California that seek to find homes for at-risk animals by removing animals from shelters or acquiring them from people who don’t cannot handle it safely. Volunteers or employees then try to place them in temporary foster homes or find them a permanent adoptive family.
Brzezinski said the dogs taken from Tidwell’s property ranged in age from adults to young puppies. They are currently being housed at the county animal shelter in Diamond Springs.
“They are properly supported,” Brzezinski said. “They are in a safe environment in our shelter.”
In addition to encouraging tipsters who may have more information on the case to contact his office, Brzezinski also declined to comment on the ongoing investigation.
Puppies kept in the freezer
Online jail records show Tidwell was released shortly after her arrest on Tuesday. His bond was $10,000.
Sierra Nevada German Shepherd Rescue was founded in 2016 and listed the home address of Tidwell’s Tea Rose Drive on incorporation documents filed with the California Secretary of State. The Franchise Tax Board suspended the organization four years later.
The group refiled nonprofit incorporation papers with the secretary of state’s office in April, listing Tidwell as CEO.
The group’s website, which has since been dismantled, said its mission is to provide sanctuary for abandoned and abused dogs, as well as dogs who were at risk of being euthanized at local animal shelters. “Our goal is to place them in a forever home that best meets each dog’s specific needs with qualified owners,” the website says.
In a text message to The Bee, Sierra Nevada German Shepherd Rescue said Tidwell “loves and keeps in touch with the majority of the dogs…she has rescued” and “truly cares about each and every one of them.”
“We can tell you that there were no rotting dead dogs,” the statement said. “These were puppies that were kept in the garage freezer, who were born with medical defects and were seen by vets and monitored.” The statement said puppies under 8 weeks old would eventually be buried together.
In his Facebook post, Tidwell said one of the dead puppies succumbed to “discolored puppy syndrome” – a condition that describes a puppy dying of unknown causes.
The other died of hydrocephalus – accumulation of fluid in the brain – and pneumonia, she wrote.
“Rushed him to the vet in tears to humanely let him go,” she wrote of the second pup.
Customer not surprised by fees
In her Facebook post, Tidwell said she had trouble finding the dogs’ homes.
“How many times have I begged and pleaded for foster families and adopters? ” she wrote. “No one wanted to interfere and almost 90% of the dogs were turned away from foster homes for one reason or another.”
One of those future foster parents, Mackenzie Firestone, told The Bee she was not surprised to hear that Tidwell had gotten into trouble.
“I got the impression from a lot of people that once the dog was rescued,” Firestone said, “she just throws it at people and doesn’t help or anything. “
Firestone fostered a German Shepherd named Sky from Tidwell’s organization in early February. She said Tidwell’s organization promised to give her dog food, a dog crate and promised to book Sky a trip to the groomer to have the dog cleaned, but she never received any .
Firestone said Sky was too aggressive towards Firestone’s other dogs, so she asked Tidwell to take the dog back and find Sky a more suitable home. Firestone said a document she signed gave her the option to return the dog provided Firestone gave two weeks’ notice so the organization could find a new foster family. Afterwards, she claims that Tidwell falsely accused her of abusing Sky with a shock collar.
Eventually, the rescue organization sent another family to retrieve Sky from Firestone’s home in Rancho Cordova, Firestone said. She added that she had never interacted directly with Tidwell or seen the house where the alleged abuse took place.
“I’ve never met her in person,” she said. “Everything was online.”
It is unclear when Tidwell will next appear in court. The El Dorado County Superior Court website does not allow the public to search for criminal case information. Brzezinski, the head of animal control, said he had not been given a date for his arraignment.
In the meantime, Brzezinski said dogs seized from Tidwell’s property will likely be in county custody for at least two weeks before they can become eligible for adoption.
He said the delay was due to a mandatory waiting period that occurs when authorities seize someone’s dogs.
While the majority of animal rescue organizations avoid trouble, groups are sometimes overwhelmed, he said.
“Well-meaning people, you know, can get in over their heads,” Brzezinski said, speaking generally and not specifically about Tidwell’s case. “They want to do everything for the animals, and it’s just overwhelming.”
The Bee’s Dale Kasler contributed to this story.