A North Carolina woman who says she sheltered more than two dozen cats and dogs left behind as Hurricane Florence swept across the East Coast was arrested for allegedly giving the animals unlicensed medical care, PEOPLE confirms.
Tammie Hedges was taken into custody on Friday and faces a dozen charges of practicing or attempting veterinary medicine without a license as well as one count of soliciting a schedule four controlled substance, according to officials in Wayne County.
The Goldsboro News-Argus reported that Hedges had taken in 27 cats and dogs and was using a warehouse as a temporary shelter.
“We were trying to help abandoned animals [after their owners evacuated]. … A group of us got together to do something to help those animals, is 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 told the paper.
“I had not gone out and gotten any animals,” she said, “but a couple of independent rescuers had gotten some from flooded areas and brought them to me.”
• Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Click here to get breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases in the True Crime Newsletter.
Hedges is out on bond and will appear in court in October. She does not have an attorney on file who could comment on her behalf and has not entered a plea. Efforts to reach her directly were unsuccessful.
The animals she was caring for but did not own were confiscated by animal control, who is working to reunite them with their owners, Wayne County officials said in a statement.
The county said they were first alerted to the issue by the state’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
According to a statement from her rescue shelter, Crazy’s Claws N’ Paws, Hedges’ charges are connected with allegations she administered the antibiotic amoxicillin, the painkiller Tramadol and an over-the-counter topical antibiotic ointment to the animals.
In a second post, the shelter wrote that “there is no proof that any of this was given.”
A county spokesman tells PEOPLE he cannot elaborate on the charges, but he stressed that they arose from the alleged unlicensed medical care and not the operation of a temporary shelter.
Hedges has said she acted with good intentions in a bad situation.
“Our mission was to save as many animals from the flood that we could,” she told USA Today. Eighteen of the animals were brought by a couple right before the hurricane arrived, according to the paper.
Animal control reached out to her once the storm had left the area, Hedges said.
“The owners got to evacuate. They got to save themselves. But who’s going to save those animals?” she explained. “That’s what we did. We saved them.”
Hedges also took issue with the county putting itself between the pets and their families. “If they can’t find the owners, the pets went from a safe place to a kill shelter,” she said, according to USA Today.
On the shelter’s Facebook page, a volunteer and shelter board member spoke out in defense of Hedges with a post Friday, writing that “she did what she needed to at that time til she could reach a vet.”
“She had two cats come in severely sick and an injured dog,” the volunteer wrote. “Was she suppose to let the cats spread the germs and infect everyone else? And was she suppose to let the dog suffer?”