UPDATE: More than $50,000 was raised for the dogs rescued in Rhea County. Last week more than 100 small dogs were found in what authorities are calling the worst hoarding situation in county history.
Online donations instantly began pouring in. However, the people fostering those dogs have yet to see any money. They called Channel 3 looking for answers.
We learned that money won't be available for the next few months. The director of the Rhea County Animal Shelter said they don't have access to it yet. She also said not everyone who took in dogs, will get a share of that money.
It has been an expensive week for employees at the Rhea County Animal Shelter. "It looks like about $1,000 to for each dog to help rehabilitate them," said Cheyenne Swafford the director of the shelter.
After the hoarding situation was discovered, Swafford went to social media asking for donations. More than $54,000 has been raised by people from across the country. "Thankfully with the outpouring of support from everybody we will be fully able to vet these guys and get them rehabilitated."
But that money will only go to the 55 animals who went to foster homes in Rhea County. Swafford said none will be split between the other shelters who took in 44 dogs. "We are a nonprofit. Everything we get in is strictly donations. Everything we are able to do is all due to the donations. We don't get any additional assistance."
She doesn't believe there will be any additional money left over after these 55 dogs are treated. "They have to have blood work done, they have to have surgeries, they have to be spayed, they have to have dentals, cleaning and heart worm prevention. We are getting them soft food and everyone is using puppy pads."
But if there is, she said it will go to help other dogs who come to the shelter. "We can help another animal in an unfortunate situation. But our main focus is these guys. It is going to be a long road for them, to be rehabilitated."
No charges have been filed in this case. Swafford said it is still under investigation.
Crews with Nashville and the Chattanooga Humane Educational Society are calling in the national level to investigate what happened in Rhea County as a puppy mill.
We will keep you updated as this story develops.
PREVIOUS STORY: No charges have been filed against the people responsible for a hoarding situation in Rhea County.
On Tuesday, over 100 dogs were rescued from horrible living conditions. The location hasn't been released, but officials said the owner was not operating a puppy mill. They believe the man was trying to help the dogs but got in over his head.
The Humane Educational Society has 28 of the 100 dogs from Rhea County. The executive director said he is organizing pictures and paperwork from the rescue to present to the national Humane Educational Society to press charges. He believes it was a puppy mill.
“I have been on many puppy mill investigations and hoarding situations that I have investigated. This is a puppy mill.” Bob Citrullo said.
He added that these dogs are in much better shape Friday than when they arrived at the Humane Educational Society in Chattanooga on Tuesday.
“They almost instantly started to trust us," Citrullo added. "They could tell that they are definitely feeling better and we were here to help them.”
It took volunteers almost five hours, and thousands of dollars in medical supplies to examine and treat the 28 dogs from Rhea County. All had medical conditions. The dogs were dirty with matted fur.
“All of them had to be bathed. They all had to be groomed. Almost all of them had to have a professional grooming done. The hair was totally shaved down, and when we got to that point, we still saw fleas.”
Executive Director Bob Citrullo is optimistic the dogs will recover, but they still need a lot of help before they are available for adoption.
“We saw a lot of ear infections and eye infections," Citrullo explained. "We identified one dog with a tumor; we are going to remove that. One dog needs to be seen by an eye specialist.”
It is still not clear where in Rhea County the dogs came from. Authorities there will not release the address of the home the dogs were removed from or the name of its owner. They said that person took in too many animals and was overwhelmed. No charges will be filed.
But Citrullo disagrees with the response. He plans to present evidence to national authorities in hopes of pressing charges.
“We are going to provide the Humane Society of the United States with pictures, and facts of the conditions of these animals in hopes they will be able to charge these people based on the animals we currently have," Citrullo said.
The dogs still have a lot of dental work to get done, and some still are very timid and need behavioral support.
Citrullo hopes the dogs will be available for fostering or adopting by next week.
PREVIOUS STORY: Volunteers and shelter employees in Rhea County, Chattanooga and Nashville were working to take care of nearly 100 dogs Tuesday night.
The animals were rescued from a home in Rhea County Tuesday. The Rhea County shelter director said the dogs were rescued from one of the worst situations she has ever seen.
Nearly 100 dogs sat in crates waiting to be washed, groomed, and placed into new homes.
"I have seen some bad cases. I have seen some bad conditions,” shelter director Cheyenne Swafford said. “This is probably one of the worst that I've seen and it's heartbreaking, really."
The dogs were rescued from a home in Rhea County, but officials won’t say whose home. Swafford said the owner was not operating a puppy mill and they don’t believe he was selling the pets. She said they believe the man was trying to help the dogs, but got in over his head.
Pictures from a Facebook post show dogs in a dirty home, with dirty water, and dogs living in their own filth.
Officials have not said if the man who had the animals will face any charges.
ORIGINAL STORY: Rhea County Animal Control Officers are removing more than 100 Yorkies, Chihuahuas and other designer breed small dogs from a home. In a Facebook post, officers called it the worst puppy mill situation they have ever seen.
Few details have been released at this time about where the home is located.
The Rhea County Animal Control is asking for help with medical expenses.
All checks can be made payable to ASA of Rhea and mailed to: