Reports of animal abuse and cruelty at the Happy Tails Animal Rescue in Murchison, so far, seem to be unfounded.
The Henderson County Sheriff's Department has launched a formal investigation against the facility. According to Maj. Botie Hillhouse, the HCSO has received some complaints against the rescue facility.
Hillhouse said the investigation is technically still open.
“Even though this is an open case until the reports are completed, everything looks good,” said Hillhouse. “We have found no signs of animal cruelty.”
The investigation started when neighbors of the animal shelter contacted a television station and the sheriff's office about the animals not being fed and cared for.
Jeffrey Krueger, who owns property next to the shelter, told KETK TV in Tyler, "The horses aren't, from what we can see from here, hardly getting any food. They're pushing our fence down trying to get the grass in our yard."
Krueger said the sewer line running through the donkey pen is also a concern.
"There is a sewer line on top of the ground that is broke open and running on the ground. We can smell it from our house here," Krueger said.
Tina Hamilton, owner of Happy Tails, says none of the allegations are true. Hamilton has been rescuing animals for eight years. According to Hamilton, the 501c3 shelter has adopted 794 dogs and cats.
“I kept finding abandoned dogs,” said Hamilton. “I tried to find a shelter for them, but no one wanted them.”
Because of her frustration, she took on the challenge to find homes for the animals.
Hamilton said she has not taken in any animals since September 2013.
“We are not going to close our doors. We will downsize and do less, because we have fewer volunteers and donations,” said Hamilton. “Since all this has started, I have lost some major donors.”
As for the sewer line, Hamilton said it is not hooked up to any sewer. She said no sewer has ever run through the pipe on the ground.
According to Hamilton, the HCSO has made no less than 10 visits to the facility in the last two weeks.
She said they have taken pictures, and asked for her vaccination records. According to Hillhouse, Hamilton and her volunteers have been cooperative with the sheriff's department.
Hillhouse said, “We have checked the food, water, size of the kennels and living conditions of the animals. So far we have found no animal abuse or cruelty violations.”
Murchison Mayor Deanna Benson said, “I have been to the rescue facility several times when no one was there. The dogs always looked fine. I support this rescue. Tina does her best to make every dog comfortable.”
Lauren Mack, a volunteer for the shelter, said, “This is a wonderful animal lover. Tina does an outstanding job with the animals and Happy Tails.”
Mack said she has adopted four dogs.
Hamilton believes the animal cruelty case has been closed. Hillhouse said the case will close when all the reports have been completed.