As they say, no good deed goes unpunished. The adage couldn’t be more true for a North Carolina animal lover and good Samaritan who was arrested after helping more than two dozen pets that might otherwise have perished during Hurricane Florence.
Goldsboro, North Carolina woman, Tammie Hedges runs Crazy’s Claws n Paws, a non-profit organization that provides low-income families with pet food, assists in veterinary bills, and helps with supplies and other needs.
She was in the process of converting a warehouse space into a shelter when Hurricane Florence threatened the area, leaving pet owners scrambling to evacuate and find safe places for their pets. Determined to help, she offered the warehouse space as a temporary place to shelter pets from the approaching storm.
“The goal was to make sure they were not out there drowning,” Hedges told WNCN. “We had an elderly couple, they were evacuating that afternoon, and there was no way they could take 18 animals with them.”
She, along with volunteers who stayed at the makeshift shelter 24-hours a day, turned the empty space into a safe haven for more than two dozen pets in need.
Hedges explained on Facebook, “Crazy’s Claws N’ Paws is a 501c3 nonprofit, no-kill, volunteer, foster, and donation-based animal shelter. We take in surrendered animals, primarily injured, abused, neglected, and sick. They receive all their medical care to include, but not limited, spay/neuter, rabies, vaccinations, microchip, fecal testing, heartworm test/prevention/treatment(dogs), and FelV/FIV test(cats). After all medical care is done, each animal is placed available for adoption in hopes to find their forever home.
“Myself, along with independent rescuers and volunteers came together during this natural disaster to save animals. We had a plan. We had the calls for help, but we didn’t know where to put the animals. Since we recently remodeled our indoor yard sale, very little had been moved back in. We decided to use this space as our emergency disaster center. We were not open as a shelter, although we are remodeling to become approved by the state as a shelter location. We created a Facebook post for donations of food and supplies, while volunteers came and set up. On September 12, Frank Sauls with the Wayne County Animal Shelter made a press release stating they would be closed beginning the 13th to owner surrenders. We began rescuing on the 13th.”
In all, 27 animals – 10 dogs and 17 cats – were kept safe from storms and flooding in the otherwise empty warehouse. They were cared for around the clock and kept as comfortable as possible by dedicated volunteers.
But, on Monday after the storm passed, Hedges got a call from Wayne County Animal Services regarding the animals. Because the facility wasn’t registered as an animal shelter, animal control seized all 27 animals and took them to the county shelter.
What’s more, she learned she would soon be facing charges for her efforts to protect the animals during the storm.
“We’re not just gonna let (the animals) suffer and die and drown,” she said.
Although Wayne County had made their shelter available to the community to bring their pets. Hedges learned that pet owners had trouble getting in contact with the shelter to make arrangements while others didn’t want to take their animals there.
A few days after seizing the animals, Hedges was called in for questioning and arrested on the following charges: 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)), the non-profit explained on Facebook.
Devastated by the turn of events, Hedges is now worried for the animals that were seized.
“Of course this whole situation is unbelievable,” Crazy’s Claws N Paws volunteer Kathie Davidson said. “The animals seized were to be returned to their owners after the storm.” Instead, she said that Animal Control has the pets.
“If they can’t find the owners, the pets went from a safe place to a kill shelter,” Hedges said.
On Friday, Hedges was released on $10,000 bond. Her court date is set for October 17 at 1:30pm in Courtroom 3 at the Wayne County Courthouse. A petition was started urging the county to drop all charges against Hedges. You can sign the petition here.
The county released the following statement: “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.”
The office said that all the animals that were surrendered were checked out by a licensed veterinarian and that it is working to reunite them with their owners.