When local bureaucrats run amok, pets suffer
Noth Carolina residents continue to face enormous hardships in the wake of Hurricane Florence. As so often happens when disasters strike, folks go out of their way to help. But as this story tells us, some bureaucrats don't like it when that happens:
A North Carolina woman says she just wanted local pets to have a safe place to stay as Hurricane Florence made landfall earlier this month. But now she's facing upward of a dozen criminal charges related to the medical care she freely provided to the animals.
Flood and tornado warnings were in effect last week in Wayne County, North Carolina, and the area got more than 10 inches of rainfall. Keeping 2016's deadly Hurricane Matthew in mind, Tammie Hedges realized that with residents evacuating, there would be animals in need of safe, dry shelter.
"It was brought to my attention from some individual rescuers that were going to go out again during this disaster and save some animals," Hedges tells Reason. "They just didn't have anywhere to put them."
But there was a solution. Hedges is the founder and executive director of Crazy's Claws N' Paws, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that takes in neglected or injured animals and finds them permanent homes. The volunteer-based, no-kill organization gives animals whatever they need, from medical care to microchipping.
So Hedges stepped-up, giving rescued pets a safe place to stay, and medical help if they needed it. That's when her troubles with the local authorities began:
On Monday, Hedges was at home when she got a call from Frank Sauls, the animal services manager for Wayne County. She says Sauls told he's received a call about flooding at the shelter site. There was no flooding, but Sauls asked her to come by anyway. When she arrived, Sauls asked if he could go inside to see the animals. She obliged.
Things quickly went south. "We didn't even get to the room that the animals were in and in and it was basically, 'you can hand them over voluntarily, or I'm going to get a warrant,'" Hedges says.
So what had Hedges done wrong? Hedges says Sauls threatened to charge her for administering veterinary medicine without a license. And while Hedges was taking care of the pets for free, she says Sauls told "one of the independent rescuers" that "he was looking at charging me for boarding." Finally, Sauls allegedly claimed Crazy's was operating an animal shelter without a license. "We had to keep telling him we're not open as a shelter," Hedges says. "This is an emergency disaster center for displaced animals for a natural disaster. That's all it is. It's temporary."
According to a Friday press release from the county, Hedges' crime was that she didn't have the proper license to give the animals veterinary medicine. The Wayne County District Attorney's Office has charged her with 12 counts of "misdemeanor practice/attempt veterinary medicine without a license and (1) count of solicitation of a Schedule 4 controlled substance," the press release says.
We get it: pets deserve good care from physicians and care center operators who are trained and accountable. But we would think, given the widespread and growing emergency in North Carolina, the rules could be temporarily suspended. But that would mean the local bureacrats surrendering their power for a just a bit in the face of a crisis. And they really, really, don't want to do that. Ever.