A North Carolina woman has been arrested for providing care without a license to more than two dozen animals left behind during Hurricane Florence.
Tammie Hedges, the owner of a nonprofit animal rescue called Crazy’s Claws N Paws, was in the process of turning a warehouse space into a certified animal shelter when news of Florence hit. She opened the unregistered space for evacuating owners to drop off their pets, aiming to provide a safe, dry home for them to wait out the storm.
“The owners got to evacuate. They got to save themselves. But who’s going to save those animals? That’s what we did,” Hedges told USA Today. “We saved them.”
Hedges stated that an elderly couple dropped off 18 of the animals she cared for, many being sick and injured prior to the storm. In total, Hedges and other volunteers cared for 17 cats and 10 dogs.
According to statements posted on the Crazy’s Claws N Paws Facebook page, vet offices and the Wayne County Animal Shelter were both closed when Hedges began taking in animals.
Hedges was approached by Wayne County Animal Control after the storm.
“He basically told me, ‘You can voluntarily hand over the animals, or I can go get a warrant,'” she said.
Hedges surrendered the animals. A few days later, she was arrested on 12 counts of practicing medicine without a veterinary license: eight counts of administering amoxicillin, three counts of administering triple antibiotic ointment, and one count of administering Tramadol.
“It was all over-the-counter stuff you could literally find at Dollar Tree,” Raina Nyliram, a volunteer, told USA Today. “She couldn’t get the animals to the vet because the vet was closed. All the charges are bogus.”
Hedges was also charged with one count of solicitation to commit a crime, which the shelter says was a plea to veterinarians for a Tramadol donation. According to the animal shelter’s Facebook page, Hedges has been released on an unsecured bond of $10,000. Her court date is set for Oct. 17.
USA Today reports that the county released the following statement following Hedges’s arrest: “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. Ms. Hedges is considered innocent until proven guilty.”
Nyliram started a crowdfunding campaign to help cover Hedges’s legal fees; within two days, the campaign surpassed its $20,000 goal. Another started a petition against the fines, with more than 10,000 signatures as of Monday.
The animals are currently in the care of animal control, which is seeking out their owners.