Most of the time, when people think of criminal activity associated with hurricanes and other natural disasters, looting usually comes to mind -- not an illegal animal rescue operation. Unfortunately, authorities in North Carolina decided to focus their attention on the activities of a dedicated animal lover who crossed some legal boundaries during her attempts to protect pets that were abandoned by their owners during the approach of Hurricane Florence.
While the authorities acknowledge that the woman, who operates a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping animals in need, probably saved some of the animals' lives, they still filed more than a dozen charges against her.
Because she provided medical care to many of the rescued animals and administered medication without a veterinary license. In addition, the good Samaritan was also accused of trying to illegally obtain Tramadol, a pain reliever commonly used for dogs, to treat one of the rescued pets.
During the hurricane, many area residents were forced to flee in a hurry -- and some were unable to take their pets with them. The woman and her team of volunteers ultimately took in a total of 27 animals and housed them temporarily in a building that is still going through the licensing process to be declared an animal shelter. Shortly after the storm was over, county officials got word of the operation and arrested her.
Ultimately, the District Attorney for Wayne County decided to drop the charges, calling the case a "distraction" from his office's primary goal of protecting citizens from acts of violent crime.
This case caught a lot of national attention, simply because the idea that someone would be arrested for doing a good deed runs against most people's intuition. Criminal laws are generally designed to protect people from harm and punish those who perpetuate it. While the woman's actions were illegal, no one is alleging that she actually harmed any of the animals she rescued. That makes the actions of the authorities who decided to order her arrest seem like an overreach.
It's important to understand that many people end up facing criminal charges through unexpected events. If it happens to you, make certain that you get some sound advice from a criminal defense attorney in order to protect your rights.