Sandra Lertzman, 62, Executive Director of Animal Rights Foundation, a “No Kill” advocacy and education organization in northern Ohio (shown in an earlier photo from her website), was found dead in her car along with 31 dogs, mostly puppies.
Moreland Hills Police were called to Lertzman’s home in the 31000 block of Jackson Road early Monday evening by a friend who found her and the dogs dead inside her car with the engine still running. The garage door was closed behind her.
Detectives told 19ActionNews they found several prescription vials in the vehicle and a suicide note inside the house.
"She was an animal lover. She feeds deer, dogs. She boarded dogs several years ago," says a neighbor who did not want to be identified.
"This summer we heard all these puppies and we saw them running around," a neighbor told 19ActionNews.
Police aren't sure how long Lertzman and the pets had been dead before they were found, but, investigators say she was last seen on Sunday. They are still investigating the exact cause of the death of the woman and dogs.
The Medical Examiner has the note found in the home.
"I'm sad that it came to that," says the neighbor.
Investigators also told 19ActionNews one of the puppies managed to get out of the car and get air from a small opening in the closed garage. The surviving puppy is now recovering with a member of Lertzman's family.
Lertzman's ten cats are with an animal caretaker, according to the Animal Rights Foundation website, which says her full name was Sandra Marlene Lertzman.
The mission statement on the Goals page says,
“ARF, through its network of dedicated volunteers will seek to rescue animals from dire situations, educate the public on how we can share our planet with all creatures, and to establish a NO Kill Sanctuary for ALL Animals.”
The memorial to her posted on the ARF home page explains:
“The dogs that Sandy had were NOT puppies (the youngest was 8 years old). Sandy's dogs were all formerly abused dogs that no one wanted or could not be adopted. She obviously feared that upon her death, these abused dogs would be placed in harm's way...We love her and will miss her everyday. We are sure she is in heaven, reunited with her animals and her son, Tommy.”
A page on the site dedicated to “Stop Puppy Mills,” provides a glimpse of the untimely death of Sandra Lertzman’s son and states that “ARF is dedicated to Tommy’s love of all animals.”
Tommy was an athlete in baseball, basketball and football at Orange High School in Ohio. He was an honor student at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio and was entering his Junior year. He was planning on applying to Law School. Tommy was beloved by both his family and his countless friends. Tommy was a member of the Alpha Sigma Mu fraternity. One of his favorite classes was horseback riding- a love he learned from Mom. Tommy was killed tragically in an auto accident. He was just 20.