The Corner

Law & the Courts

North Carolina Woman Faces Prosecution for Rescuing Animals

When Hurricane Florence hit the Carolinas earlier this month, Tammie Hedges rescued 27 pets from what would have been a sure drowning, by taking them to a temporary shelter where they were protected from the elements and given care and food. Wayne County, where Hedges is based, was thoroughly flooded during the storm, which turned wide swathes of land into lakes. Her kindness and bravery ought to be commended.

Instead, Hedges is facing prosecution for 12 misdemeanor charges. Why? Because her organization didn’t go through the proper channels.

Hedges is the founder of  an animal rescue outfit called Crazy’s Claws N’ Paws, and has a warehouse in an area that remained dry.When the weather turned, Hedges faced the choice of taking rescued animals to her warehouse or leaving them to die. (In the middle of a state of emergency, there isn’t really an option to contact regulators, let alone fast-track a license.) Being a committed animal lover, she chose to do the right thing — and now she is paying the price.

Among her ‘crimes’ are taking the pets to a safe building (keeping them in an unlicensed facility), applying antibiotic ointment to the animals’ wounds (unlicensed veterinary medicine), and requesting donations of supplies online, including medicine (solicitation of a controlled substance). The request for supplies and volunteers was publicly posted, and doesn’t remotely resemble some back-channel attempt to deal in drugs. Among the shelter’s Facebook posts were requests for people to take pet food and supplies to people in the community who didn’t have them; this is not what a bunch of criminals bent on hoarding would do.

There are often valid reasons for health-and-safety regulations. But for the state to apply them without respect to individual circumstances is absurd. A society in which Good Samaritans are penalized for doing their part — particularly when there is no other option– is a society that has forgotten what government is for. It is hard to shake the feeling that the local government felt a sense of lèse-majesté at its job being done for them by volunteers. Our society benefits when people go out of their way to help others. When a conflict emerges between such behavior and our regulatory regimes, it is the latter that we should re-evaluate.

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