NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Members of a nonprofit want justice after several dogs and cats were found without food or water at a Hickman County home, which they say is part of a bigger issue.

Susan Lonardelli, of Shelter Friends of Hickman County, spoke with News 2 about the devastating discovery. She said the incident happened at a home on industrial road in Nunnelly this week. Another rescue reported that dogs were seen digging through garbage cans in the area, so Lonardelli’s team went out to investigate.

When volunteers got there, they discovered several dogs emaciated and in urgent need of medical care. The dogs had no food or water.

Lonardelli, in tears, told News 2 they discovered one of the dogs was already dead in the backyard, with its ribs showing. She said another one of the dogs collapsed as they arrived.

“We are going to press charges. This is unacceptable and we need a shelter in this county. We need animal control so that people can be kept accountable because we are finding numerous dogs that are roaming, hit by a car. You did the report on the gentleman who was bit in the face by some stray dogs, actually those were owned, but we couldn’t even put them in quarantine because there is no shelter,” explained Lonardelli.

She said the dogs, in a desperate attempt, dug a hole under the fence to search for food. Lonardelli said the homeowner left five dogs and two cats to fend for themselves. One cat is still missing.

She said incidents like this only prove the urgent need for an animal control in the county, something they are working to create.

“I’ve only been in this county for three years and my house came with a cat. We had a stray dog that wandered onto our property. I tried to look for an owner, didn’t find them. That’s when I got involved with the Hickman Humane Society. I have since fostered over 60 dogs. and I am just one volunteer so there is many others but we have to turn people away daily,” explained Lonardelli.

Lt. Doddo with the Hickman County Sheriff’s Office told News 2 this case is still being investigated, as deputies stated there are some extenuating circumstances surrounding this case.

Lonardelli said the dog that collapsed did survive, but every single one of these situations, breaks her heart.

“You cry, there’s been sleepless nights just about this cruelty case you know. one of the dogs collapsed the day that we went there we had to rush her to the vet. We see a lot, a lot that people turn a blind eye to,” said Lonardelli.

At the beginning of July, News 2 reached out to the Hickman County Mayor’s Office to inquire about the lack of an animal control program in the county. The Mayor’s Office said an animal control program was approved and is currently in the works.

Rebecca Bates, President of Shelter Friends of Hickman County, told News 2 the county provided a property to their organization for the eventual use of an animal control.

Bates said the property is off of Highway Seven and they are currently raising funds and constructing the space. Once that is complete, Bates said the county will take over and staff the facility.

Lonardelli said they’ve raised about $50,000 toward their new facility, but need about $300,000 to finish the project.

If you’d like to donate, you can do so online here. You can also mail a check to PO Box 111 in Centerville, Tennessee.