Nearly 100 dogs are on the road to recovery at the Tennessee State Fairgrounds in Nashville after being rescued from a property in rural western Kentucky on Valentine's Day.
Animal Rescue Corps spearheaded the rescue effort dubbed "Operation Sweethearts" in Wingo, approximately two hours west of Clarksville, just over the Tennessee state line.
Scotlund Haisley, president of the Animal Rescue Corps, told Nashville's News 2 they drove three hours from the property in Kentucky to the fairground because it's the "best possible place to get the animals healthy" and for the first time Wednesday, the animals received the love and attention they've been deprived of.
"Our vet teams are working around the clock to do whatever they can to save these dogs lives," Haisley said.
Veterinarians like Heather Robertson, who typically works for the Nashville Zoo, donated her time Wednesday to work on the dogs.
"It is horrible. I have not seen a mouth this bad, and it breaks my heart because it could've been prevented," she said while treating a dachshund with no teeth and no lower jaw.
"This is just long term neglect," Robertson added, "No one paid attention, no dental care, no antibiotics for this guy."
According to rescuers, to say the animals were abused and neglected over the last four years is an understatement.
"These dogs were on that property dying and suffering," Haisley said. "They weren't living with these conditions, they were dying those conditions, and they were largely dying because dogs were attacking dogs to eat. There was no food and no water."
One of the most extreme examples of starvation rescuers discovered was a larger dog they think is a Rhodesian Ridgeback.
The animal is so thin her bones are clearly visible and rescuers have had to slowly feed her slowly because too much food too soon can wreak havoc on her digestive system.
Animal Rescue Corps conducted a seven month investigation to secure a case against the animals' owner, Shannon Lacewell. She is charged with cruelty to animals.
Investigators believe she had claimed to run some type of rescue or shelter organization and was even accepting donations.
"I've been doing this for a long time and get asked on a regular basis how and why," Haisley said. "I can't get into the mindset of somebody like this. It just happens and it happens too often."
Robertson told Nashville's News 2, "I look at this guy and it breaks my heart, but it also gives me hope we got it in time and hopefully, we can get him a loving home and he can finish out with a good life."
Animal Rescue Corps said the dogs will eventually be put up adoption, but not at the state fairgrounds.
They will work with local shelters and rescue organizations to get the animals adopted.
Haisley said rescuers and vets will be at the fairgrounds through at least this weekend.
As it continues to care for the animals at the Tennessee State Fairgrounds, the operation is in desperate need of donations, including monetary donations, durable plastic toys for large dogs and Science Diet Sensitive Digestive Food. They also need blankets and towels for the dogs and food for the volunteers.
Supplies can be dropped off at the Vaughn Building on the fairgrounds campus off Nolensville Pike in south Nashville.
Email email@example.com for more information. Volunteers are asked to list any specific skills and provide their contact information in the email.