Florence aftermath: Good Samaritan who sheltered animals during storm arrested

A North Carolina woman was arrested Friday after authorities said she ran an illegal operation while sheltering animals during Florence, the News-Argus of Goldsboro reported.

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Tammie Hedges, the founder of Crazy’s Claws N Paws in Goldsboro, was charged with 12 misdemeanor counts of practicing veterinary medicine without a license and one count of soliciting a schedule IV controlled substance, the newspaper reported. Wayne County animal control officers confiscated 17 cats and 10 dogs and later arrested Hodges, who was released on a $10,000 secured bond., the newspaper reported.

During the storm, Hedges and volunteers from the animal rescue center took in the animals at a temporary shelter. The organization is in the process of getting the warehouse licensed, the News-Argus reported.

"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."

The charges were broken down by the animal shelter in a Facebook post.

The charge of soliciting a schedule IV controlled substance came from Hedges' attempt to acquire a donation of Tramadol, she told the News-Argus. Another charge was for the use of an antibiotic ointment, which she said she bought from a nearby Dollar Tree

“Vets were closed. Had they left the animals there, we could have had a vet come out here, because some vets were open later, but we didn’t get that option,” she said. “During a state of emergency, you’re not going to find anybody open. I did what I’m supposed to do. I’m not about to let an animal be in pain and run a fever. When I have the availability and the supplies to help them, I’m going to do it.”

After the storm passed, Hedges said she received a telephone call Monday from Frank Sauls, Wayne County's animal services manager, WNCN reported.

“He basically told me, 'You can voluntarily hand over the animals, or I can go get a warrant,' " Hedges told the television station.

Hedges complied.

"A few days later they called me in for questioning and yesterday they arrested me," Hedges told WNCN.

Before Florence hit the North Carolina coast, Wayne County made its shelter available for residents to bring their pets, the television station reported.

In a statement, Wayne County officials said Hedges “is considered innocent until proven guilty.”

"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,” the statement said.

“I think it’s really sad that when someone tries to do the right thing, they’re punished for it,” said Kathie Davidson, a volunteer at Crazy’s Paws N Claws. “I’m hoping they don’t file charges. We’d like to see him reach out to her and push the reset button.”

An online petition calling for Hedges not to be fined had more than 3,200 signatures as of Sunday morning. Raina Nyliram, an animal rescue volunteer, started a crowdfunding campaign for Hedges to help cover legal fees.

Hedges will appear in court Oct. 17.