The owner of an animal rescue shelter was arrested on Friday on criminal charges after she housed the pets of residents who were fleeing the area as Hurricane Florence approached North Carolina.
Tammie Hedges, the owner of Crazy's Claws N' Paws, took in more than 25 cats and dogs at a warehouse in Wayne County that was in the process of being converted into a shelter.
“Our mission was to save as many animals from the flood that we could. We went through Hurricane Matthew and it was horrible. There were many preventable deaths," Hedges told USA Today. One elderly couple dropped off 18 animals, some of which were sick or injured, she said.
But the warehouse where Hedges was housing the animals — 17 cats and 10 dogs — had not been officially registered as an animal shelter.
According to Hedges, an official with Wayne County Animal Services had shown up to the shelter site claiming that they had received a call about possible flooding at the warehouse.
"As we walked in, before we got to the animals, [the official] basically said i could hand the animals over voluntarily or he would get a warrant. At this time, I made the decision to voluntarily hand them over," Hedges wrote in a note posted on the Crazy's Claws N' Paws Facebook page.
But later that week, Hedges was taken into custody, the post announced: "Just to update everyone, Tammie was just arrested and is being taken to county jail. They sent two cars of men to arrest one 4'10" female!"
"Wayne County Animal Services made contact with Ms. Tammie Hedges and upon entering the facility they developed serious concerns regarding the practice of veterinary medicine without a license and the presence of controlled substances," the Wayne County government wrote on its official Facebook page.
The post continued: "Wayne County Animal Services turned the case over to the Wayne County District Attorney’s office based on suspicion of practicing veterinarian medicine without a license and presence of controlled substances."
The post added that Hedges was charged with 12 counts of practicing veterinary medicine without a license and one count of solicitation of a controlled substance.
Crazy's Claws N' Paws described the charges differently in a post:
1 count of administering amoxicillin to Big Momma, 1 count of administering Tramadol to Big Momma, 3 counts of administering amoxicillin to a white Siamese cat, 3 counts of administering a topical antibiotic ointment (triple antibiotic from Dollar Tree) to a white Siamese cat, 3 counts of administering amoxicillin to a cat known as Sweet Pea, 1 count of administering amoxicillin to an unnamed black kitten, and 1 count of solicitation to commit a crime (asking for donation of Tramadol (that was suppose to be a request for a vet)).
Hedges was released on a $10,000 bond, according to a post on the Crazy's Claws N' Paws page.
"The owners got to evacuate. They got to save themselves. But who’s going to save those animals? That’s what we did. We saved them," Hedges said.
In a statement, the Wayne County government said that all surrendered animals were examined by a veterinarian, and that the county's animal services division is arranging for the pets to be reunited with their owners.
"Ms. Hedges is considered innocent until proven guilty," the county's statement concluded.
Neither Hedges nor Wayne County government officials, including the police department and animals services division, could be immediately reached for comment.
A volunteer for Crazy's Claws N' Paws has started a GoFundMe page to help Hedges with her legal fees.