A North Carolina woman who provided refuge for more than two dozen animals after Hurricane Florence barreled into the Carolina coast has been arrested and faces numerous criminal charges.
Her crime? Law enforcement allege she practiced veterinary medicine without a license. Others, however, say she's just a good Samaritan.
What are the details?
Tammie Hedges runs Crazys Claws N Paw in Goldsboro, a town about 100 miles north of where Florence made landfall. Her nonprofit animal rescue shelter helps low-income families with veterinary bills and other animal needs, according to WNCN-TV.
So when Florence brought her wrath to the area, Hedges provided pet owners with a safe place for their furry family members. She said she stocked a warehouse — which she is currently converting into a state-approved animal shelter — with animal crates, food, and other pet supplies. Volunteers stayed with the animals 24 hours a day. In total, 27 pets fell into Hedges' care, 17 cats and 10 dogs.
"The goal was to make sure they were not out there drowning. We had an elderly couple, they were evacuating that afternoon, and there was no way they could take 18 animals with them," Hedges said.
It was after the storm passed, when floodwaters had yet to crest, that problems for Hedges began.
In a Facebook post, she says Wayne County animal shelter services manager Frank Sauls called her on Monday, Sept. 17, telling her that he was at the warehouse. He told Hedges he was there on a welfare check after hearing the warehouse had been flooded.
But upon entering the emergency disaster shelter, Hedges said Sauls told her she needed to surrender the animals or he "would get a warrant." Hedges said the comment prompted her to voluntarily turn over the pets to the county.
On Friday, Hedges was formally arrested and charged with 12 counts of misdemeanor practice/attempt of veterinary medicine without a license and one count of solicitation of a Schedule 4 controlled substance. She was later released on $10,000 secured bond.
What did local officials say?
In a Facebook post, Wayne County officials tell a slightly different story. They say they were prompted to visit the warehouse after receiving a tip from the North Carolina State Department of Agriculture.
Upon entering the warehouse, officials "developed serious concerns regarding the practice of veterinary medicine without a license and the presence of controlled substances," the county said.
How did Hedges allegedly attempt to practice veterinary medicine?
The Goldsboro News-Argus explained:
According to [Hedges], most of the charges stem from her administering amoxicillin to animals that arrived at the shelter sick. Another was for the use of a topical antibiotic ointment, which she said she got from a nearby Dollar Tree, and still another for the use of Tramadol, an opioid painkiller often used to treat pain in dogs and cats.
The charge of soliciting a schedule IV controlled substance came from Hedges’ attempt to acquire a donation of Tramadol, she said.
In an interview with WNCN, she acknowledged her emergency shelter was not registered with the state, but said she was simply looking out for the well-being of helpless animals.
"We’re not just gonna let [the animals] suffer and die and drown," she said.
Wayne County officials said they are in the process of reuniting the seized animals with their lawful owners.
Meanwhile, a GoFundMe campaign to support Hedges has raised more than $20,000. Also, more than 1,700 supporters have signed a petition calling for Hedges to be cleared of all charges.