A Tennessee property owner has been arrested and is facing 10 counts of animal cruelty after authorities learned she was hoarding 99 dogs in “extremely neglectful conditions.”
Nearly 100 dogs were found living in total darkness at a property in Coffee County on April 12, confined to rusted-shut cages and windowless barn stalls.
“They were statues. They were shut down and ready to die,” President of Animal Rescue Corps Scotlund Haisley told The Huffington Post. “They had been suffering a very long time. I saw little to no emotion, and when I did see an emotion, I saw fear.”
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Haisley and his ARC team lead the rescue mission, which they called Operation Midnight Run. Volunteer photographer Amiee Stubbs took several photos of the disturbing scene and subsequent rescue.
On the scene, ARC found dogs surrounded by trash. They were living just inches away from their own waste and exposed to dangerously high levels of ammonia. Some dogs were found with “significant acid burns” caused by the acidity of their own urine, Haisley told The Huffington Post.
An ARC press release stated that the dogs were a variety of breeds including golden retrievers, Shih Tzus, Yorkshire terriers and Border collies. It also reported “some of their breeds were not immediately identifiable and some were matted to their own cages by their own excrement.”
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According to The Huffington Post, many dogs were found emaciated and had both internal and external parasites. Ten dogs were found dead in a wheelbarrow and covered in maggots. Haisley believes they had starved to death.
ARC managed to stop the bleeding and save the surviving dogs. Haisley told The Huffington post they are recovering well since being found.
“Something magical happened that I had never seen before in my 26-year-old long career,” Haisley said. “When we brought everyone out, they all did the same thing. They shot their noses up to the sky, and what we believe they were doing was absorbing the sunshine and oxygen.”
Authorities identified Caroline Irby, 64, as the property owner. They arrested her and booked her into Coffee County Jail where she is being held on $10,000 bail, the Daily News Journal reported.
It is believed that Irby became overwhelmed with the number of animals under her care.
Dr. Jeff Keene, a former colleague of Irby’s at a veterinary clinic in Manchester, Tennessee, was surprised by the allegations against her. Keene told WSMV that Irby was “a very dedicated employee, beloved by her clients, active in the Humane Society for years.”
The ARC set up an emergency shelter for the rescued animals at a local warehouse. The dogs are receiving veterinary care and grooming and are learning how interact with people.
The dogs will eventually be transferred to other rescue groups and animal shelters, The Huffington Post reported.
Photo Credit: Courtesy ARC / Screen Captures WKRN