Two county employees were recently involved in an animal rescue operation that will appear on an upcoming show on Animal Planet.
Amy Tanner, a 911 operator, and Deputy Jared Allison of the Nash County Sheriff’s Office were part of the multi-organization effort that recently rescued dozens of animals from a Nash County property.
The story started on Aug. 9 when someone called the non-emergency number to report that a neighbors’ escaped pigs were damaging their property, Tanner said.
“With the first call, we were unable to locate anyone in records that would have pigs in that area so we dispatched Deputy Allison to check out the situation, play cowboys and wrangle up the pigs,” she said.
When Allison arrived at the caller’s address, he found that the pigs had done extensive damage to the property. He began to track down where the pigs came from.
When he found the property in southern Nash County, which has not yet been identified, he was shocked at what he saw.
“I found a trailer with very limited access to the front door,” Allison said. “No one came to the door, but I heard animals barking and scurrying inside. The windows were covered with paper and no one answered. I knocked on the door of a camper on the property, and no one answered.”
But in the course of his investigation, he did find animals — lots of animals.
At first, he saw a black dog running loose and a white dog with a chain that he had broken and which was becoming embedded in his neck. When Allison started walking the property, he found countless stacks of expired food from a food pantry and waste in the yard, he said.
“I was walking around seeing and smelling all this, I thought that nothing could be living or thriving on that property,” he said. “But I did see some more pigs, more than 20 chickens, one goat in a pen and three dogs. Then I saw more dogs chained up. None of the chains I saw were longer than three feet long. They had no shade, no water and no food.”
He then saw a tree with three dogs chained to it. One of the dogs was dead. A necropsy of the animal later revealed that the animal died of starvation with only dirt, grass, twigs and plastic in his belly.
Over the next two days, as deputies went out there to feed the animals, they found that there were more than 20 dogs on the property in addition to the nine pigs, a cage full of at least six kittens and cats, the goat, assorted barnyard fowl and an unnaturally subdued parakeet.
“We really could not get an exact number of all the animals because some kept coming on the property after we counted them,” Allison said
Allison notified his supervisor and animal control. His supervisor, animal control officers, Allison and Tanner began to work to contact sources to help the animals get the attention they needed.
“Being that the dog was deceased and chained up with no water or food around, we were able to start the process of charging the owner with animal cruelty.” Allison said. “As of now, we can’t disclose any information about the lady or the specific address because the trial date is still pending.”
Animal control also posted a notice stating that the owner would be fined for every day the animals were left in those conditions.
The death of the dog allowed them to be able to contact other organizations to help provide food, water, supplies and veterinary care. The Nash County Sheriff’s Office and 911 had already begun to try to meet some of these needs but realized it would require more help to feed and treat the animals before it was too late, especially as there was no running water on the property.
Tanner said she kept getting calls about the pigs getting out, so with the permission of her supervisors, she began to enlist more help. She contacted the southern Virginia office of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. The Humane Society out of Washington, D.C., also got involved.
“We were trying to find ways to meet the needs of animals on the property because you have to go through certain procedures before you can remove the animals off the property,” Tanner said.
Allison said the effort required teamwork among a number of agencies including the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Wake County Sheriff’s Office and several animal shelters.
Eventually, authorities were able to contact the owner of the animals and Allison convinced her to surrender the animals in order to avoid the mounting fines. The owner clearly could not care for all those animals, he said. This release cleared the way for the animals to be rescued.
Saving Grace Animal Shelter in Raleigh collaborated with other shelter organizations to rescue most of the dogs.
Allison and his wife adopted one the animals that had been kept inside the trailer — a chihuahua that he named Nash.
The other animals were harder to place.
“Most of the places around here are not equipped to take rescued livestock and the pigs, goat and fowl all fell in that category,” Tanner said.
Most of the pigs were rescued by the Barn Sanctuary in Michigan. This organization is “dedicated to rescuing and rehabilitating abused and neglected farmed animals by creating a safe haven where these individuals can recover, thrive and serve as an example for why we strive to lead society towards a vegan lifestyle,” according to its mission statement.
Tanner said these animals can look forward to safe and bright future.
“The Barn Sanctuary is planning to build a huge pig palace,” she said. “These animals will live the good life.”
“They will be happy and have all the food they want. Food that is not trash,” Allison said.
Ziggy’s Refuge Animal Sanctuary is taking the rest of the pigs, Tanner said.
The Barn Sanctuary will be the subject of a documentary in January on the Animal Planet channel. The producers of the show decided to come down to film the pig rescue operation for that program and Allison and Tanner were interviewed for the show.
“We thought we were just going to be interviewed, but they invited us to be a part of the rescue effort that was filmed. We had no idea that we would be part of that,” Tanner said.
Both Tanner and Allison are animal lovers and are happy that the situation worked out well for most of the animals involved. But they are humbled by the experience and the part they were able to play in the rescue of these animals, they said.
Tanner said the situation on the property also illustrates what can happen when people betray the trust of animals.
“When we take an animal in, they depend on us to care for them,” she said.