published Wednesday, January 1st, 2014

Prosecutor faces roadblocks in pet crematory case

WARTBURG — The chief prosecutor for Morgan County says he wants to pursue a case against a pet crematory where hundreds of dogs and cats were buried instead of burned, but he is facing roadblocks.

The Knoxville News Sentinel reports District Attorney General Russell Johnson sent a five-page letter to state Sen. Ken Yager, R-Harriman and state Rep. John Mark Windle, D-Livingston about the problems.

He said his office has received numerous inquiries from customers who are outraged that their beloved pets may have been thrown into a mass grave rather than cremated. But Johnson said he can't initiate criminal charges unless the state Department of Environment and Conservation requests his involvement, which it has not done.

Meanwhile, the owner of Elliott Pet Services, Cameo Farr, says she has done nothing wrong. Farr said the animals found on her property were buried at the request of their owners.

She told the paper that inaccurate media reports about her crematory have shut her business down and bankrupted her. The crematory was located in the front yard of Farr's isolated Morgan County home. DA Johnson described the crematory as having a "striking resemblance to a pig roaster."

"I'm destroyed," Farr said. "People are calling me ungodly things."

TDEC records show that Farr was assessed $10,000 to reimburse the state for the two days last month that workers spent unearthing dead animals from three locations on her property and disposing of them at a permitted landfill.

The TDEC order stated Elliott Pet Services was operating and maintaining a solid waste disposal site without a permit.

Farr was also hit by TDEC with a $1,250 civil penalty for not keeping daily logs of how many animals were incinerated.

But Johnson can't initiate criminal charges for violation of the Tennessee Air Quality Act unless TDEC officials request in writing his involvement, which they say they won't do.

Johnson told lawmakers in his letter that he also wants to pursue theft or fraud charges, but that would involve testing the ashes that were given to pet owners, which would be "an expensive endeavor for which our office has no funding."

The prosecutor in his letter urged the lawmakers to consider legislation that would tighten regulation of pet crematoriums.

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