Bladenboro, NC – A woman who gave shelter to more than two dozen cats and dogs during Hurricane Florence has been criminally charged for practicing veterinary medicine without a license.
Tammie Hedges, the operator of the volunteer-run temporary shelter, Crazys Claws N Paws, signed the animals over to Wayne County animal control on Sep. 17, the Goldsboro News-Argus reported.
“We were trying to help abandoned animals,” Hedges told the news outlet. “We knew North Carolina didn’t have any regulations or laws regarding shelters for animals… So a group of us got together to do something to help those animals.”
“We opened our building to them so they’d have a safe dry place to go until their owners returned to get them,” she explained. “I had not gone out and gotten any animals, but a couple of independent rescuers had gotten some from flooded areas and brought them to me.”
The intention was to return the pets to their owners when it was safe for them to come home, but the seizure by animal control brought potential complications to that plan, Hedges said.
“If they can’t find the owners, the pets went from a safe place to a kill shelter,” she told USA Today.
Crazys Claws N Paws volunteer Kathie Davidson said Hedges had planned to register the space they used as a temporary emergency center, but that it was not yet registered when Florence hit, the Goldsboro News-Argus reported.
“Since she had space… she just wanted to be able to provide a place for the animals,” Davidson told the Goldsboro News-Argus. “Each one had its own cage or playpen, its own water, its own food, and cats had their own litter box. There was a kennel set up with pads that dogs could be taken to to use the bathroom.”
The entire operation was indoors, and volunteers remained there 24-hours each day, Davidson said.
"The owners got to evacuate. They got to save themselves,” Hedges told USA Today. “But who’s going to save those animals? That’s what we did. We saved them."
Hedges admitted that she used a topical antibiotic ointment for some animals and gave amoxicillin to those that were ill, CBS News reported.
She has also been charged for asking someone to donate a dose of Tramadol – a prescription painkiller sometimes used to help humans and animals.
Wayne County Animal Control officers had “serious concern regarding the practice of veterinary medicine without a license and the presence of controlled substances,” the agency said in a statement to CBS News.
“If we didn’t feel like anything was being done wrong, we would not have taken [the animals],” Wayne County Animal Services Manager Frank Sauls told the Goldsboro News-Argus. “All that will come out if the case goes to court… But that is for the courts to decide.”
Hedges was arrested on Friday on 12 counts of practicing medicine without a veterinary license and one count of soliciting a schedule IV controlled substance, the Goldsboro News-Argus reported.
"It was all over-the-counter stuff you could literally find at Dollar Tree," Crazys Claws N Paws volunteer Raina Nyliram told USA Today. "She couldn’t get the animals to the vet because the vet was closed. All the charges are bogus."
“Our mission was to save as many animals from the flood that we could," Hedges said. "We went through Hurricane Matthew and it was horrible. There were many preventable deaths.”
Hedges was released on $10,000 bond, and her first court hearing has been scheduled for Oct. 17, the Goldsboro News-Argus reported.