District Attorney Matthew Delbridge dismissed all charges against Tammie Hedges Tuesday afternoon.
“The protection of animals and their well-being has always been an important concern, especially during times of natural disaster,” Delbridge said in a prepared statement released by Wayne County government officials.
“A passion for and the love of animals is laudable but does not excuse unnecessarily putting their health at risk when other, safer resources are available.”
Wayne County animal control officers began investigating Hedges after receiving calls of animals being dropped off at an unlicensed shelter prior to Hurricane Florence. Hedges, Crazys Claws N Paws rescue founder, surrendered 27 animals that did not belong to her to Wayne County animal control.
After ensuring the safety of the animals in question, Delbridge said he dismissed all criminal charges to minimize distraction from his “core mission of protecting the public from violent crime.”
The North Carolina Veterinary Medical Board is left to take whatever action it deems appropriate against Hedges, Delbridge said.
Hedges was charged with 12 counts of practicing veterinary medicine without a license and one count of soliciting a schedule IV-controlled substance on Friday. She was released later that day on a $10,000 secured bond.
Wayne County Animal Adoption and Education Center, at 1600 Clingman St., was open to all pets in need of shelter during the hurricane and had plenty of space. The shelter was staffed 24/7 and did not charge for housing pets during the storm.
Delbridge said that the building Hedges used to shelter the animals during the storm was not licensed and that Hedges had been previously censured for the unauthorized practice of veterinary medicine. Delbridge did not provide details regarding any previous “unauthorized practice of veterinary medicine.”
“The removal of animals from a building that failed to meet suitable standards for license as an animal shelter and away from the control of this defendant who has previously been censured for the unauthorized practice of veterinary medicine was a prudent decision made with the best interest of the animals in mind,” Delbridge said. “This was especially true in light of her taking advantage of a dire situation to solicit money and opioid narcotics from our generous and well-intentioned citizens.”
All the animals Hedges voluntarily surrendered were examined by a licensed veterinarian and were kept inside the county animal shelter, county officials said. Some of the animals have been reunited with their owners, and others will be returned to owners once they return to the Wayne County area.
Hedges was not available to comment Tuesday night, but a volunteer with the Crazys Claws N Paws rescue said Hedges plans to release a statement, with her attorney, Wednesday morning.
— News Argus Lifestyle Editor Becky Barclay contributed to this report.