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North Knox Co. family members charged with animal cruelty adopted and fostered pets from Young Williams

Young Williams Animal Center said, after an animal control investigation in July 2022, the center banned the person from adopting or fostering animals.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Incident reports from the Knox County Sheriff's Office regarding charges of animal cruelty at a North Knox County home show family members adopted 15 pets from Young Williams Animal Center between July 2021 and June 2022. 

Thirteen of those animals died, according to the incident report. 

The report said eight rabbits, two birds, two hamsters, a dog and a cat died from those adopted animals. The family also fostered cats, the report said. Two of them died in June of 2022. 

Knox County Animal Control said it learned of the animals fostered and adopted from Young Williams Animal Center in July of 2022, during an animal welfare check, according to the incident report. 

In the incident report, the animal control officer said she asked YWAC why they continued to adopt and foster animals to a person when the animals died. 

The report said a Young Williams staff member told the officer "if the adopted animal were to pass away for any reason within 30 days from the adoption date, as long as it's reported, the shelter will replace the animal with another animal of their choice." 

However, Young Williams CEO Janet Testerman said that is incorrect and the policy does not exist at Young Williams.

Young Williams said it banned that person from adopting or fostering animals after learning of the investigation in July 2022. 

"The individual took advantage of our policies and misled staff by providing multiple names and addresses to attain pets," said Young Williams Animal Center in a statement to 10News.

Young Williams said the individual "came highly recommended by multiple animal rescue organizations, was well-regarded by people in the community, and met our requirements," to foster the animal.

Sheriff's deputies with the Knox County Sheriff's Office arrested Michelle Burgess-Morris on charges of aggravated cruelty to animals. 

Warrants show Haylee, Isabella and Thomas Morris listed as co-defendants in the case, but sheriff's deputies have not been able to bring them to Knox County to be charged. 

Knox County Animal Control officers seized more than 30 animals from the Morris' home, and took them to Young Williams Animal Center. 

Young Williams said it share any information about those animals, other than they are doing well. 

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