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Wildlife rehab center founder pleads no contest


Piles of cages and fencing are visible outside the High Desert Wildlife center in July before a community cleanup of the facility. Oregon State Police has opened a criminal investigation focusing on permit violations and animal neglect at the Bend center, which shut down in 2016. (Joe Kline /Bulletin file photo)

A co-founder of the High Desert Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Center pleaded no contest Friday to two wildlife violations related to a failure to maintain required records and the mistreatment of birds at the center.

Jeanette Bonomo, 43, of Bend, will be sentenced in Deschutes County Circuit Court in March.

As part of a plea agreement, 19 counts of second-degree animal neglect and one wildlife violation were dropped.

Bonomo and co-founder Jeffrey Dean Cooney, 61, were both indicted on animal neglect charges in August after a yearlong investigation.

Oregon State Police had opened a criminal investigation following an Oregon Department

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A co-founder of the High Desert Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Center pleaded no contest Friday to two wildlife violations related to a failure to maintain required records and the mistreatment of birds at the center.

Jeanette Bonomo, 43, of Bend, will be sentenced in Deschutes County Circuit Court in March.

As part of a plea agreement, 19 counts of second-degree animal neglect and one wildlife violation were dropped.

Bonomo and co-founder Jeffrey Dean Cooney, 61, were both indicted on animal neglect charges in August after a yearlong investigation.

Oregon State Police had opened a criminal investigation following an Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife visit to the home-turned-rehabilitation center off Neff Road in northeast Bend in Aug. 16, 2016. The center, which mostly worked with birds, had drawn complaints from volunteer workers.

According to charging documents, wildlife officials removed a Swainson’s hawk, a red-tailed hawk, two golden eagles, a bald eagle, a peregrine falcon, three owls, five northern flickers, a goose, a robin, a bluebird and an ash-throated flycatcher.

Following the animals’ removal, the center shut down in August 2016 and is no longer permitted to care for wildlife.

Cooney, who still faces 19 counts of second-degree animal neglect and three wildlife violations, is scheduled for trial in May.

A former volunteer told The Bulletin in 2016 that she stopped working at the center because she was frustrated by the disorganized, chaotic and unclean environment. She described problems such as bird enclosures too small for their inhabitants and times when birds had died of starvation or dehydration.

The animals found in the center were in poor condition, according to the Deschutes County District Attorney’s Office. Some were placed with other rehabilitation centers and others were euthanized.

— Reporter: 541-617-7820, kspurr@bendbulletin.com