COCKE COUNTY, Tenn. — The former manager of Friends Animal Shelter in Newport has been charged with animal cruelty after images of a severely malnourished hound began circulating on social media.
Authorities arrested Terry Wayne Starnes, 44, Monday.
Starnes told 10News on Tuesday that he has since been let go and is no longer with the shelter.
Cocke County Sheriff Armando Fontes said concerned citizen Amy Huff filed a formal complaint on Nov. 30 after seeing images of a Red Blood Hound, later identified as K9 Kylar, that made its rounds on Facebook.
"I had never seen a dog that starved," Huff said.
Detectives conducted a walk-through of the shelter and began an investigation the next day, Fontes said in a release he posted to Facebook Monday.
They discovered the dog in question had been taken in by the shelter in February, adopted in March, then returned back to the shelter later that month. They further concluded the shelter was in poor condition and needed cleaning.
After collaborating with other agencies, officers brought Starnes into custody.
Shelter president Anne Fontaine said she thinks this isn't fair to Starnes.
"He's trying to operate with very few funds, too many animals, too little help," Fontaine said.
Fontaine said there are about 250 animals in the no-kill shelter. She said she took it over last year and took in three times the number of animals in the shelter before her management.
She said Starnes did not have experience in animal care other than farm animal care but said he was very hardworking.
On Tuesday the shelter gates were locked, but workers appeared to be taking care of the animals inside.
Fontaine said the shelter gets more than $8,000 from the county. A Cocke County commissioner told 10News they are trying to work it out with the shelter.
Fontaine said they tried their best with Kylar, but the dog didn't want to eat.
"This was an animal that came into us very skinny. We really tried our best to even force him to feed," Fontaine said. "Maybe it was depression, being locked in after being free, but the animal did not want to eat."
According to the police report, Starnes told police he took Kylar to the vet but did not have the vet reports.
Starnes told 10News over the phone he’s trying to track those down with some of the families who adopted and returned Kylar.
Starnes also said that he loves animals and would never mean to cause harm.
Still, Huff wants the shelter to have better management.
"That's my main goal is that I want our shelter to be something that other communities can look up to," Huff said.
Huff said Kylar lives with a foster family and is doing much better.