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More than 60 animals rescued in cruelty case brought to Lebanon

Jared Felkins jfelkins@lebanondemocrat.com • Dec 17, 2015 at 5:59 PM

About 20 Animal Rescue Corps and New Leash on Life volunteers brought more than 60 dogs and two cats to Lebanon on Saturday after Hamblen County authorities found them living in deplorable conditions Friday.

A post Saturday night on New Leash on Life’s Facebook page outlined the effort.

“This is just another example of how the staff and volunteers with New Leash on Life come to the rescue of animals in need,” the Facebook post said. “NLOL provided the transportation for these animals. We thank our volunteers and staff, as well as the Animal Rescue Corps and the Hamblen County Sheriff’s Department, the Morristown Hamblen Humane Society, and Dr. Daniel Parks of Five Rivers Mobile Veterinary Service, as well as the Floyd family of Lebanon and Patterson Veterinary Supplies, for their support.”

New Leash on Life volunteer Denise Moore said all of the animals will receive full medical exams, vaccinations and any necessary treatments by a team of local veterinarians Sunday at the Lebanon emergency shelter at 200 Carver Lane.

Animal Rescue Corps responded Saturday to an call from Hamblen County officials for assistance with more than 60 dogs of various breeds, two cats and several tropical fish found living in horrible conditions in a home in Morristown, about four hours east of Lebanon. Morristown Hamblen Humane Society officials seized all the animals.

The Morristown Hamblen Humane Society officials made this discovery Friday while responding to complaints about an animal rescue organization in operation in the home, and they reached out to ARC for help upon discovering the severity of the conditions and the large number of animals in danger at the property. ARC was on the ground less than 24 hours later with equipment and supplies, transport vehicles, volunteers and a veterinarian.

“We take animal cruelty reports seriously in Hamblen County, and these conditions were unacceptable,” said Hamblen County Sheriff Esco Jarnagin. “We’re grateful Animal Rescue Corps could assist us so quickly to address this situation and bring the animals to safety.”

Responders found dozens of dogs, which were without access to food, water and necessary veterinary care, in small, filthy crates and dozens more running loose in a house among piles of garbage on urine-soaked and feces-covered floors.

Dogs, several of which were underweight and two who were nursing mothers, exhibited various illnesses and injuries, including external parasites, conjunctivitis and severe diarrhea.

“These animals have been living in a house of horrors, with an overwhelming stench of ammonia and an unbelievable build up of feces all over,” said Animal Rescue Corps President Scotlund Haisley. “These animals have endured tremendous suffering, and it ends today.”

Working under the Morristown Hamblen Animal Shelter and the Hamblen County Sheriff’s Department, ARC safely removed all the animals and took them to an emergency shelter where ARC will provide daily care until custody of the animals is determined and they can be placed with partnering shelters and rescue groups.

A press conference is scheduled for Sunday at 11:30 a.m. at the Carver Lane shelter in Lebanon.

Melissa Turner, 45, Morristown, was charged with 63 counts of animal cruelty and was free on $5,000 pending an arraignment Monday at 8:30 a.m. in Hamblen County General Sessions Court, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel.

Hamblen County Sheriff’s Office Detective David Stapleton told the News Sentinel an arrest warrant was issued for another woman he did not identify, but said she was Turner’s sister.

Animal Rescue Corps dubbed the rescue Operation Mending Hearts. 

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