Charges dropped against woman who operated illegal animal shelter during Florence

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— Charges have been dropped against a Wayne County woman who was arrested after operating a make-shift animal shelter during Hurricane Florence.

Tammy Hedges was charged with 12 counts of practicing medicine without a veterinary license after authorities said she converted a warehouse into an unregistered shelter during the hurricane and administered medication, including antibiotics and ointments, to the animals.

Hedges was contacted by Wayne County Animal Services last week and willingly surrendered the animals prior to her arrest.

Authorities said all surrendered animals were examined by a veterinarian and several have been reunited with their owners.

On Tuesday, Wayne County District Attorney Matthew Delbridge dismissed the charges against Hedges, saying her actions put the health of the animals at risk but, since no animals were harmed, the dismissal of the charges will allow authorities to focus on more serious crime.

“It is my desire that, having ensured the safety of the animals in question, a dismissal of these criminal charges will minimize further distraction from my core mission of protecting the public from violent crime and allow the North Carolina Veterinary Medical Board to take whatever action they may deem appropriate,” Delbridge said.

In a statement, Delbridge said that Hedges has been previously censured for unauthorized practice of veterinary medicine.

“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,” he said. “This was especially true in light of [Hedges] taking advantage of a dire situation to solicit money and opioid narcotics from our generous and well-intentioned citizens.”

Animals that were surrendered by Hedges that have not returned to their owners are being cared for at the Wayne County Animal Shelter.