UPDATE: Sixty dogs rescued from Dunlap home in “absolute filth” - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

UPDATE: Sixty dogs rescued from Dunlap home in “absolute filth”

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One of the 60 dogs at the Dunlap home looks up a one of his rescuers Friday.Kathy Milani/HSUS photo One of the 60 dogs at the Dunlap home looks up a one of his rescuers Friday.Kathy Milani/HSUS photo
One of the 60 dogs at the Dunlap home looks up a one of his rescuers Friday. Kathy Milani/HSUS photo One of the 60 dogs at the Dunlap home looks up a one of his rescuers Friday. Kathy Milani/HSUS photo
Sequatchie County Sheriff Office deputies want into the home on Austin Road in Dunlap Friday morning. WRCBtv.com photo Sequatchie County Sheriff Office deputies want into the home on Austin Road in Dunlap Friday morning. WRCBtv.com photo
DUNLAP, TN (WRCB) -

UPDATE: A man charged for neglecting nearly 60 animals in Sequatchie County will answer before a judge for the first time Tuesday.

Investigators discovered the animals living in cages covered in their own waste on Friday while serving a warrant. Authorities also found several deceased dogs in a freezer on the property.

Geoffrey Peterson, 54, is now facing animal cruelty charges.

Investigators wouldn't allow Channel 3 to get new video of the animals Monday. We are told 37 dogs and cats are  now being treated at the Humane Educational Society in Chattanooga. McKamey Animal Shelter is taking care of 11 others and a local veterinarian is caring for the most critical animals.

It's a new chapter for nearly 60 dogs and other animals rescued from the home on Austin Road last week.

“Some of them happen to have some level of training on them, so it makes us wonder where were they before?” Humane Educational Society Director Bob Citrullo said.

He and 12 volunteers are taking care of most of the animals rescued from the Sequatchie County home.

“The ones that we have bathed already have perked up even faster because we're putting our hands on them and they feel safe and they're getting clean so they're really enjoying that,” he said.

Many of the dogs and cats are being treated for urine scalding, emaciation, dehydration, anemia and feces crusted feet and coats. Investigators call this animal cruelty case one of the worst they've ever seen.

“You're never sure until you go into the situation, well of course, as we all know now, it was much larger than we first anticipated,” he said.

The volunteers at the Humane Educational Society are giving 27 dogs and 10 cats food, medication, baths and whatever they need to be healthy again.

And hopefully a chance for a better future inside a forever home.

The animals won't be able to be put up for adoption until the owner surrenders them or a judge issues a court order. That could happen as soon as Tuesday.

Stay with Channel 3 for updates on this story.   


Nearly 60 dogs and other animals were rescued from a home in Dunlap Friday morning.

A news release from the Humane Society of the United States said the animals were living in “absolute filth.”

The Sequatchie County Sheriff's Department served a warrant and discovered many medium and large, mixed-breed dogs living in cages inside the home on Austin Road, and some living in cages outside the home.

"It is one of the worst that we have ever seen, that I have ever seen as animal cruelty," said Chief Deputy Randall Lockhart, "I mean the dogs are just, I mean, it's very bad.

Geoffrey Peterson, 54, is now in Sequatchie County jail and charged with animal neglect.

Chief Deputy Lockhart said the animal cruelty investigation started months ago when a concerned person called the humane society saying Peterson brought in a dog to be treated for starvation. The dog was treated and released back to Peterson.

A few months later, Peterson brought in the same dog and the animal was once again suffering from starvation.

Initial veterinary findings on the condition of the animals includes urine scalding, emaciation, dehydration, anemia, and feces-crusted feet and coats.

Authorities also found several deceased dogs in a freezer on the property.

"It's definitely inhumane conditions there. You're not able to breathe inside the house," said Leighann Lassiter, Tennessee State Director of the Humane Society of the United States.
    
Many of the animals were living in cages and covered in their own waste.

"There's a lot of hair loss. Presumably from living in their own urine and feces," Lassiter said, "There are some animal that have some various wounds."
The animals are being gathered and crated for transport to McKamey Animal Center and the Humane Educations Society in Chattanooga, where they will be evaluated, examined and treated by veterinary staff.

Since this is still a criminal investigation, it may be some time before the animals could be available for adoption.

Investigators say the animal waste found inside the home was several inches thick, forcing those inside to wear gas masks.

"These animals are living in their own filth, they are living in their own waste," Lassiter said, "They've been living that way for a long period of time."

Investigators believe no one but the animals occupied the home. Peterson told deputies he lives in Hixson, but owns the property where the animals were found.

Peterson is the only suspect in this case at this time, according to the Assistant District Attorney of the 12th District.

"It's hard to imagine anyone else going into that house in the condition it's in," said Steve Straine, Asst. DA, "It is just terrible."

Peterson is scheduled to go before a Sequatchie County judge on Tuesday, December 23 at 11:00am central time.

Channel 3 spoke with a neighbor who lives across the street.

She suspected Peterson didn't live at his home on Austin Road, but she had no idea he was sheltering so many animals. She said whenever the two would talk, Peterson told her he was a member of PETA, a vegan and loved animals.
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