Animal Shelter; the very name is indicative of a place that is supposed to care for animals. By it’s very definition, a shelter is supposed to be a place that provides protection from danger so what is going on when these very ‘shelters’ are in fact not only dangerous but killers?!

Such was the case when authorities investigated allegations of neglect at Benton County Animal Shelter in northern Tennessee. They were not prepared for what they found when they entered the facility, a dozen dead dogs, others hungry and without food and water, many more sick with parvo. Twenty-five puppies had to be euthanized because of the often deadly and highly contagious virus and malnutrition.

The dogs and cats which hadn’t been fed or watered for days were living in filth, feces and urine everywhere. Cats were housed in cages too small for them. Bags of unopened dog food was found lying outside the shelter along with the body of one dead dog.

“I wouldn’t wish my best or my worst enemy to live in anything like that,” said Camden Police Chief George Smith. “Not at all. I don’t think there is a way to describe it. That’s how filthy it was inside the building.”

A criminal investigation had been opened and the shelter has been closed pending the investigation. Smith said that charges will be filed.

The surviving animals, approximately 60 in number, have been cared for and removed from the shelter and placed in rescue and with fosters by West Tennessee Animal Rescue and Jackson Humane Society. WTAR can be contacted regarding adopting the animals at the their website or by calling 731-234-4152.

Camden vet, Dr. Elizabeth Paschall, who removed some of the animals Friday after the initial discovery, is trying to determine what caused the deaths of the dozen dogs that were found dead on the premises.

“Most of the adult dogs, their physical condition is good, but the environmental conditions that they were kept in (were) incomprehensible,” she said.

Jacqueline Boyett who operated as the animal control officer for the the shelter, which is overseen by the county, was fired on Thursday. Boyett had previously been in trouble during her tenure as animal control officer being arrested in October for possession of marijuana after finding evidence in her vehicle as well as the remain of a marijuana cigarette in the the shelter’s office.

“That’s something else we’ll look at, if she was fired and who was in charge of looking at the animal shelter (if not Boyett),” Smith said. “Somebody will be charged, I guarantee that.”

Boyett will appear in Benton County General Sessions Court on Jan. 23 regarding that incident, Smith said.

Over the weekend volunteers cleaned out the shelter and the investigation will continue this week.

It was not clear whose responsibilty the shelter fell under but that will also be address during the investigation as well as determining who will be charged. Benton County Mayor Jimmy Wiseman could not be reached for comment.

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