UPDATE 2: Animal shelter volunteer charged with animal cruelty
RHEA COUNTY, TN. (WRCB) – Channel 3 is learning more about a former Rhea County Animal Shelter volunteer arrested for animal cruelty.
Investigators say he sent friends to adopt dogs from the county shelter, only so he could find them homes.
But it's the conditions the dogs were living in while waiting for a forever home, that the sheriff's office calls abusive.
With a search warrant and two veterinarians in tow, Rhea County authorities searched a home off Back Valley Road Thursday afternoon.
What they found inside gave them reason to charge Richard Orlowske with animal cruelty.
"Three and four and five dogs to a pet carrier, with feces all in it and no food or water," says Sheriff Mike Neal.
Twenty-one dogs were removed from the home, 19 others were taken from outside pins. Several show signs of parvo, mange and malnutrition.
"It's sad," Ashley Eisenback, with Village Veterinary Care says. "There are good intentions, but there are too many dogs and they aren't well cared for."
Orlowske was using Facebook to promote his make-shift shelter called Save My Tail.
Many of the dogs he was selling to adoptive families were first rescued by the county shelter, a place Orlowske volunteered for five months, before being dismissed for breaking adoption rules.
"The law says that you have to keep a dog or animal for five days," Sheriff Neal says. "A lady came in the next day to pick up her dog and it had already been allowed to be adopted out."
"Bogus," Brandi Dawkins says. "Intimidation."
Brandi Dawkins, spokesperson for Friends of Rhea County Animals says the search of Orlowske's home was nothing more than a setup.
The group and Orlowske have been at odds with Sheriff Mike Neal since December when he was let go.
Dawkins says Orlowske's arrest was retaliation against the group for speaking out about how the sheriff runs the shelter.
Dawkins, who admittedly has never visited Orlowske's shelter, says he's done nothing wrong and deputies just showed up before he had time to clean.
"It's not that they are being treated that way, it's that that's the time that you caught them," says Dawkins.
Sheriff Neal says this is much more than a missed cleaning, it's abuse.
"Is this a set up," Channel 3 asks Sheriff Neal.
"No, you can see clearly that it's not a set up," the sheriff replies. "This is a very inhumane way to keep animals."
One of the 40 dogs confiscated died Thursday evening.
Orlowske relinquished the animals to county officials, who are now in charge of finding them homes.
Orlowske is being held in the Rhea County Jail, awaiting a bond hearing.