By Zachary Blackwell

Elm Staff Writer

During the relentless downpours caused by Hurricane Florence in the Carolinas, the floodwaters displaced many people and animals from their homes, including pets that were unfortunately left behind. That’s why Tammie Hedges, the founder and executive director of Crazy’s Claws N’ Paws, an animal rescue center based in Goldsboro, NC, made the decision to convert a warehouse into a proper animal shelter to save more than two dozen dogs and cats that would have otherwise been caught in the storm.

However, on Sept. 21, Hedges was arrested and charged for multiple “counts of misdemeanor practice/attempt veterinary medicine without a license” and one count of “solicitation of a Schedule 4 controlled substance”, according to local police. The makeshift shelter that Hedges decided to use was unlicensed.

Despite all charges against Hedges being dismissed as of Sept. 25, the fact that she was arrested for sheltering animals that may have otherwise lost their lives in a hurricane is a contentious issue. I can’t help but wonder: in what circumstances can it be difficult to play the role of a good Samaritan? When should it be acceptable to prioritize the laws of the land over the perceived wellbeing of pets? It’s not an easy issue to grasp.

It is of importance that laws regarding animal welfare are followed. We often forget, in times of frustration and peril, that animal welfare laws are written with the purpose of protecting pets and other animals from being harmed. Harm to animals doesn’t necessarily come from people directly, but rather through other means, like giving them medicine that they may not be prescribed for or removing them from where they are the most acclimated.

A concerned owner of a dog, cat, or any other pet would be worried if an unlicensed shelter was responsible for taking care of their beloved. Ultimately, the laws are in place to ensure that the best caretakers of animals are the only caretakers of animals, and so that both owners and pets feel more comfortable about their options.

I believe that there should be laws in place to protect animal rights and ensure that they are being taken care of in the best way possible. However, it is important to recognize that there are dangerous situations like hurricanes where immediate action may be needed.  Good Samaritans should not be afraid to save the lives of pets simply because an informal means of shelter may be against the law. And, at the end of the day, saving the lives of animals whenever possible is crucial to their owner’s future well-being.

Upholding the law is incredibly important. But saving the lives of pets, at least in this circumstance, is more important, especially considering the life-threatening weather conditions that Florence created. It is comforting to see that there are many people, including Tammie Hedges, that are willing to spend their time and resources helping animals in need of shelter. I don’t believe that there is time to get picky about who comes to the rescue during a natural disaster, if their intentions are forged in love and consideration.

People who intend to save lives should not have to feel afraid for doing so, whether those lives being saved are human or animal. While this is a cloudy issue to read about, the result of Tammie Hedges’s actions is clear as day. Lives were saved, and that should be the most important thing to take away.

The Elm

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