Volunteers with Animal Rescue Corp and New Leash on Life helped rescue 75 animals from a residence in Hamblen County Friday. On Monday, the animals were at the emergency shelter in Lebanon beginning the recovery process.
“There were 73 dogs and two cats,” said Animal Rescue Corps spokesperson Michael Cunningham. “All but five were inside the house. There were the five loose dogs, and all the rest were in cages.”
Animal Rescue Corps responded Saturday to a 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.”
Melissa Turner, 45, Morristown, was charged with 63 counts of animal cruelty and was free on $5,000 bond pending an arraignment Monday at 8:30 a.m. in Hamblen County General Sessions Court, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel.
New Leash on Life Director Amy Haverstick said the conditions “were awful” in the home. Cunningham said the animals were housed in a two-bedroom, one-bath home and several of the animals were in cages that were wired shut.
“The wire on those cages had completely rusted; you could tell those animals had never left those cages,” he said.
Cunningham said all of the animals went through full medical evaluations Sunday and many were being treated for worms or mange. Two puppies were diagnosed with Parvo and were being treated.
Once the animals have been treated and evaluated for any aggression toward humans, other dogs or with food, they will be available for adoption, according to Cunningham.
“The owner did a full surrender of the animals. Some will go into foster homes while they recover from injuries, and the others will go to area shelters and rescue groups to be adopted out,” he said.