Infested dogs close shelter

Pair charged with animal cruelty
Aug. 23, 2013 @ 11:39 PM

The Sevier County Animal Shelter closed for two days this week to treat a set of dogs brought in by the sheriff’s office that were infested with deer ticks.

Jayne Vaughn, executive director for the Sevier County Humane Society, said workers decided to close so that they could treat the animals and eradicate the ticks before letting people come inside or drop off other pets.

“The concern for all of them is that they were infested with deer ticks and deer ticks are notorious for carrying tick borne diseases such as Lyme disease and ehrlichia,” Vaughn said.

She later confirmed that three of the dogs were confirmed to have erhrlichia, which can be treated with antibiotics.

Ehrlichia can cause fever, headaches and muscle aches, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is transmitted by tick bites.

Vaughn said she closed the shelter as a precaution while keeping the dogs isolated and treating them for ticks It is expected to be safe when it reopens Friday.

“There will be absolutely no risk to the public, that’s why we did our diligence,” she said.

Deputies brought 10 dogs from a home on Windfall Estates, as well as the remains of two more, after getting a call Tuesday from a person who noticed the dogs were being kept outside and that some appeared to be in distress.

The man told dispatchers that one of the dogs died while he was trying to treat it, Animal Control Officer Phil King said.

After inspecting the dogs, King found that it didn’t appear they were provided with water or shelter.

“They had been fed but the statute says owners must provide shelter, food, water and proper care,” King said.

The owners weren’t present, but were eventually located and charged.

Thomas J. Leach and Lea J. Leach, both of 2788 Windfall Estates, were charged with 12 counts each of animal cruelty.

The remaining dogs are expected to recover, Vaughn said.

Deer ticks are not common in Tennessee, but have reportedly been found in increasing numbers in recent years. They’re typically found in wooded areas.

Vaughn noted there are several precautions that pet owners can take to keep their animal companions from getting ticks; she encouraged people to do so if they keep their animals outdoors.

She also said the treatment of the dogs, and keeping them isolated while being treated, created some unexpected expenses for the shelter.

“We have incurred probably close to $1,000 a this time already with diagnostics and treatment for these animals and we would appreciate any support we can get from the community to offset our expenses.”

jfarrell@themountainpress.com