As residents of North Carolina frantically attempted to evacuate in the hours ahead of Hurricane Florence’s landfall, one woman was determined to rescue many of the pets left behind. Her reward? Twelve misdemeanor counts.
Tammie Hedges, founder of Crazy’s Claws N Paws, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to helping low-income families pay their veterinary bills, had shifted her focus to rescuing pets left behind during the evacuation. Before the hurricane hit, she had begun to convert warehouse space into an animal shelter. When Florence began to pose a threat to the coast, Hedges had not yet registered the shelter officially, but had enough essential supplies and resources to begin sheltering animals until the storm passed.
Over the course of the storm, Hedges’ shelter took in 27 animals from people who were unable to evacuate with their pets. The animals were provided with food, water, basic medical care, and 24 hour supervision.
Once the storm passed, Hedges received a call from the Wayne County Department of Animal Control in which she was told she would need to surrender the animals in her care. With few other options, Hedges complied. Several days later, Hedges was arrested and charged with twelve counts of misdemeanor practice/attempt veterinary medicine without a license and one count of solicitation of a Schedule 4 controlled substance.
While the Department of Animal Control’s grounds for seizing the animals from Hedges’ unregistered animal shelter was valid under the law, many view the seizure and Hedges’ arrest as a gratuitous act against a well-intentioned good samaritan. Following the arrest, members of the community rallied around Hedges and her efforts. A crowdfunding campaign was launched to help cover Hedges’ legal fees and a petition calling for the dropping of the charges has collected over 10,000 signatures.
Following the public outcry in support of Hedges, the Wayne County District Attorney’s office dropped all charges against her.