A volunteer at the Williamson County Animal Shelter alleges animal neglect following the confiscation of nearly 200 animals last month in the county's largest animal abuse seizure in recent memory.
Jim Sherrill has worked as a volunteer at the animal control for close to four years and says last month's seizure has put so much pressure on the facility others animals are suffering.
"The animals are not getting the attention they were getting before," Sherrill said.
Photos given to Nashville's News 2 Investigates from the shelter insider show dogs in cramped cages filled with animal feces.
According to Sherrill, the pictures were taken earlier this month when the temperature soared to above 100 degrees.
He said that during the time he saw five dogs outside for more than an hour without any water, which Sherrill said is a result of too few people trying to provide care to too many animals.
"I personally saw for over an hour, five dogs in outdoor kennels, three of which, did not have any shade, and no sun relief. All five had no water, in every cage, the bowls were completely dry, turned over, I know that because I was out walking dogs and I heard them crying and whining and they were in distress when I went to them," Sherrill said.
He continued, "I went to an employee and brought it to their attention and went to the supervisor and quickly the dogs were brought in, but you can't put dogs in 100 degree temps for more than hour without water. They were there because kennels were being cleaned and they don't have the manpower, so they move them to other places and in this case they were outside kennels and there far too long.
Sherrill also told Nashville's News 2 Investigates animals are placed in cages filled with fecal matter from a multitude of other dogs.
He said the practice it is unsafe and promotes disease.
Doug Brightwell, the shelter's director, says last month's seizure has put more pressure on the shelter but not to the point that animals are suffering.
Brightwell admits a dog was placed in a crowded cage last Sunday filled with feces, but refutes allegations that any dog was in 100-degree heat for an extended period of time
"I would disagree with that whole heartedly, our animals are provided with some of the best vet care anywhere, and we provide clean environment through out the day, and as soon as we get here in the morning everything is thoroughly cleaned," he said.
He continued, "They have quality food, water and medicine. We are having to use some outdoor kennels for cleaning purposes for some dogs, but they are only out there long enough for cage to be cleaned. There are dog houses and water in those outdoor cages. There are concerns over dogs in the outdoor in heat. All outdoor runs have dog houses and tarps over half and they all have water bowls, and we fill them. The average cage cleaning takes about 15 minutes per cage, so dogs are only out long enough to be cleaned."
Brightwell said the average cost to keep an animal at the shelter is $10 per day.
During a previously scheduled tour of the facility Wednesday, Nashville's New 2 Investigates found mostly clean cages and healthy animals.
Close to 170 dogs, cats and assorted fowl were confiscated June 13 from the College Grove property of Jerry and Helen Hendrixson.
The couple, their daughter, Michelle Plunkett, and son-in-law, Jason Plunkett, were indicted by a grand jury and face multiple counts of animal cruelty.
The attorney representing the family says they have made several overtures to the facility and county to reduce the strain.
"I have been trying to negotiate with Doug Brightwell and the prosecutor's office. I have been asked by my clients to provide food and medicine for their animals and each time I have been turned away, told that this is an on going investigation. They have asked for visitation to see their pets and their animals and each time they have been refused a visitation," attorney John Cauley.
He continued, "My clients love their animals and they don't want you to think they are cruel. From the start they wanted to visit their pets, they miss their pets. Mr. Hendrixson is disabled, he misses his dogs. When I showed him the photo you sent me, he was very concerned their animals are not being cared for properly. They want their animals back."
They have their first court appearance on August 14 when their attorney says he will move to have some of the animals released to his clients.