MCDONALD, TN (WRCB) - Dog rescue volunteers are back in Bradley County transporting more pups for medical treatment and adoption, after a puppy mill was discovered in McDonald. Veterinarians and rescuers say the nearly 240 dogs were living in unclean and cramped conditions. They were found Wednesday at home on Candies Creek Road.
No charges have been filed against the dog's owner(s), but the Bradley County Sheriff's Office says it's still under investigation. They discovered the puppy mill when a 911 call came in over a domestic dispute, due in part to conditions at the house where hundreds of dogs were also living. Officers called in animal rescuers to pull 237 dogs from the unsanitary conditions.
Pickup continues into day two as volunteers remove hundreds of sick dogs from the McDonald home.
"As far as laying eyes on this, this is the largest I've witnessed in my entire life," A Paw and A Prayer volunteer Karen Maxwell said.
Many are in need of medical help.
"Mostly parasites-- external parasites like the mange, and internal parasites like worms. We wormed them and they had really bad round worms and hook worms," Dr. Richard Harlow said.
There was a total count of 237 dogs, but it's now down at least one.
"We had a little puppy that died cause it had worms so bad," Dr. Harlow said.
Online research shows at least one female resident, Rebecca VanMeter, was running a breeding business, though the main site is now listed as "under construction."
"You're going to find a superior of pet if you get one of these beagles," she says in an online video, "She's the teacup variety we've been working on for more than ten years."
"When we were talking to her she's like 'I don't have an income source, you guys took it'," Maxwell said.
Some volunteers think matters just got out of her hands.
"It breaks my heart because the lady is a very sweet lady. She's not a bad person," Maxwell said.
Channel 3 uncovered Bradley County 911 records that show neighbors reported the conditions at least twice before, in 2011 and in 2013. At the time, Cleveland Animal Control was in charge of the county too, but they say conditions at that time didn't call for action.
"It was surprising I think to all of us how many animals she has accumulated because it was probably a year ago that we were out there and she had about 20 dogs then. They were all up to date on rabies and things of that nature," Cleveland Animal Control Director Gene Smith said.
The SPCA of Bradley County and several non-profits, including The Pet Placement Center and A Paw And A Prayer Dog Rescue are requesting more volunteers, donations of money and supplies and even a large air conditioned facility to hold them in the short-term. They also need people interested in fostering or adopting the pets.
How you can help:
The SPCA says they are quickly running out of crates, bowls and other necessities to care for the animals. They are asking for donations to their PayPal account with the designation of firstname.lastname@example.org