published Thursday, February 20th, 2014

Dogs 'rescued' from Cleveland shelter sent to 'house of horrors'

  • photo
    Animal Rescue Corps and Hamblen County officials rescue more 60 animals from a home in Northeast Tennessee.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. — A recent raid on a cramped "house of horrors" animal shelter near Morristown, Tenn., saved some dogs that earlier were removed from the Cleveland Animal Shelter by a local rescue group.

More than 70 animals, almost all of them dogs, were seized at the Puppy Patch by the Morristown Hamblen Humane Society and later taken by the Animal Rescue Corps of Lebanon, Tenn. Seven dogs and 15 puppies from Cleveland are thought to have been sent to the Puppy Patch in December 2013 and in January, according to a Feb. 16 posting on Cleveland for a No Kill City's Facebook page.

"These animals have been living in a house of horrors, with an overwhelming stench of ammonia and an unbelievable buildup of feces all over," Animal Rescue Corps President Scotlund Haisley said on that organization's website.

Rescuers had to wear masks while removing animals from the home. They found dogs housed in stacked crates, sometimes more than one puppy or dog in a crate. The animals were living in filth.

The owner of the Puppy Patch, Melissa Turner, was arrested Friday and charged with animal cruelty. Kimberly Turner also was arrested. Each woman is charged with 63 counts of animal cruelty, according to the website of WATE-TV in Knoxville.

Beth Foster, organizer of Cleveland for a No Kill City, addressed the incident at this week's Bradley County Commission meeting.

"Everybody's still sorting through exactly who goes where, but we think there may have been four dogs from Cleveland that were seized as part of [the raid]," Foster said.

The Cleveland group's involvement with the Puppy Patch began in December, Foster said. The group had references from established sources, but no visits were made to the Puppy Patch site by her group's personnel or volunteers, she said.

Dixie Day Spay, which provides low-cost spay and neutering services and works with Cleveland for a No Kill City, issued an apology for its involvement with Puppy Patch.

"As the director of Dixie Day Spay, I want to say how very sorry I am for the role we played in helping to place dogs into the care of Puppy Patch Rescue," Betti Gravelle said on the organization's Facebook page. "I am appalled, outraged and heartbroken at the conditions of the animals in the Puppy Patch's care."

Puppy Patch betrayed the animals given into its care and betrayed the many individuals, organizations and veterinary clinics that put their faith in it, she said.

Foster said no animals from Cleveland were sent to the Puppy Patch by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Bradley County. She also serves as media coordinator for the SPCA of Bradley County along with Gravelle, who is president of its board.

The SPCA of Bradley County is scheduled to assume animal control services for county residents who live outside of Cleveland city limits in March.

In January, the organization entered into a two-year agreement with Bradley County to provide humane rescue and sheltering of animals for $80,000 a year.

The agreement, described as a pilot program by Bradley County Commission Vice Chairman J. Adam Lowe, replaces the county's longstanding animal control agreement with the Cleveland Animal Shelter.

Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Contact him at paul.leach.press@gmail.com.

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