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Charges dropped against woman who sheltered dozens of animals during Hurricane Florence

A local district attorney's office has dropped charges against a North Carolina woman who was arrested after she took in dozens of pets during Hurricane Florence. Tammie Hedges, founder of Crazy's Claws N Paws animal rescue, was accused of running an illegal veterinary operation before authorities confiscated the animals. Prosecutors decided to toss out the charges on Tuesday.

Hedges sheltered 10 dogs and 17 cats in a warehouse that she was in the process of converting into a shelter, according to CBS affiliate WNCN-TV. She had been charged with 12 counts of misdemeanor "practice/attempt veterinary medicine without a license." Wayne County District Attorney Matthew Delbridge said in a statement that he was dismissing the charges to "minimize further distraction from my core mission of protecting the public from violent crime." 

However, he noted, "A passion for and the love of animals is laudable but does not excuse unnecessarily putting their health at risk when other, safer resources are available." He said the building failed to meet standards for an animal shelter and that "this defendant... has previously been censured for the unauthorized practice of veterinary medicine."

He added that she was taking advantage of situation during Hurricane Florence to "solicit money and opioid narcotics from our generous and well intentioned citizens." 

Crazy's Claws N Paws published an update on their Facebook page Wednesday, relishing the news that the charges were dismissed and "optimistic" no further action would be taken. 

"We are very blessed that the charges against our founder, Tammie Hedges, have been dismissed. We remain optimistic that no other charges will be filed, and that this is the end to a terrible, terrible situation. We strive for a lifelong dedication to working with state and local law enforcement to make North Carolina safe for our animals."

Delbridge said he will allow the North Carolina Veterinary Medical Board to take whatever action they may deem appropriate against Hedges. 

Hedges told the News-Argus of Goldsboro last week that she felt she had to help the animals brought to her during the storm. 

"We were trying to help abandoned animals," she said. "A group of us got together to do something to help those animals. [That's] why we opened our building to them, so they'd have a safe dry place to go until their owners returned to get them."

Hedges said she gave amoxicillin to some sick animals and also used a topical antibiotic ointment, and she was charged with soliciting a donation of tramadol, a prescription painkiller sometimes used for dogs and cats. That charge has also been dismissed.

Since she was initially charged on Friday, more than 10,000 people signed online petitions calling for the charges against Hedges be dropped.