A local animal welfare organization helped rescue 39 Chihuahua dogs from a Lake Tansi residence after the owners voluntarily surrendered the animals to the rescue organization.

“We have contacted three or four rescues who have reached out to help,” said Karen McMeekin, director of A Time 4 Paws. “The dogs appeared fed but full of fleas and skin irritation. Some were blind and some had deformities. Most of the dogs were relatively young.”

McMeekin was contacted Nov. 16 by an animal rescue in Columbia, TN. Family members had contacted that rescue organization about the animals but the organization had not been able to secure a commitment to surrender the animals. 

McMeekin contacted Cumberland County Animal Control about the situation. Animal control met with McMeekin and other volunteers Friday morning and went to the residence.

“The man was not home when we arrived, but he drove up shortly and was visibly shaken and upset and was crying when he saw we were there to help,” McMeekin said. “He thanked me over and over and cried, ‘I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I love them. I didn’t mean for this to happen.’”

No charges are being sought in the case, McMeekin said, because the owner voluntarily surrendered the animals. 

“He felt relieved and grateful we arrived,” she said, adding she did not think this was a case of backyard breeders.

McMeekin described conditions inside the home with furniture and floors soaked in urine and covered in animal feces. Parts of a couch had to be cut out to reach puppies who had wandered under it. 

A Time 4 Paws is working with the Sevier County Humane Society, Heaven Can Wait Animal Rescue and Safe Haven Puppy Rescue, who have taken some of the dogs. A Time 4 Paws will have some dogs ready for adoption within a two-week period. 

“We didn’t want to put that burden on the county shelter,” McMeekin said. She noted A Time 4 Paws is not funded by the city or county, and funding and donations are being accepted to help provide care for the animals. 

McMeekin extended her thanks to local law enforcement as well as volunteers Jim Jeffries, Cason Morris, Carrie Gandy, Jan Hendrickson and Ellen Rossenfeldt, who responded to a call for help within minutes. 

She added law enforcement will continue to monitor the situation at the home in the coming months. 

McMeekin has attended animal cruelty investigator training through the University of Missouri Law Enforcement Training Department, 

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