Cocke County animal shelter director charged with animal cruelty

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The Cocke County Sheriff’s Office arrested the Friends Animal Shelter director following citizen complaints about a malnourished Red Blood Hound, Kylar. 

On Monday, 44-year-old Terry Starnes was criminally charged with cruelty to animals. He was released on a $2,500 bond the same day. 

Cocke County Sheriff Armando Fontes reports a concerned citizen, Amy Huff, filed a formal complaint on November 30, 2018. In her complaint, she included photos of the malnourished dog. The same ones, then circulating on Facebook gaining public concern. 

A sheriff’s office investigation showed the dog was taken in by the shelter in February, adopted in March, and then brought back to the shelter less than two weeks later by the same owner. 

The full report says Steele Away From Home rescue agreed to take Kylar and pay all of the associated vet bills. He was treated at Cedarwood Veterinary Hospital, a report shows Kylar was “extremely underweight” and had hook worms.  

Medical records for Kylar were requested at the time from Starnes. He told officers he had taken the dog to the vet, but didn’t know which one and did not have vet records. 

On December 7, CCSO officers served subpoenas for records on Kylar. The final report also notes officers found the conditions in some areas of the shelter to be in “poor condition”, that some were “in need of cleaning.” Officers also saw dogs underweight and in poor condition, according to the sheriff’s report. 

Huff says she went to law enforcement with evidence and contacted any department she could think of to help. 

“It’s sickening… and heartbreaking and heart wrenching to see an animal in that condition,” said Huff. 

Huff is a volunteer with Steele Away Home Canine Rescue in Cocke County. She began treating Kylar after the Jefferson County Humane Society contacted Steele rescue about the malnourished animal, asking for assistance in treatment. 

“The more people that know about it, the more likely it is to get help. You can’t just make a report and walk off, you have to stay on top of it. You have to be relentless,” said Huff. 

Huff says she contacted the ASPCA, the TBI, and the District Attorney’s Office to report the photos and her concerns, including reporting it to CCSO. 

She says she wanted justice for Kylar, but also, to ensure no other animals were harmed. 

“I don’t ever want him to be able to be over animals again. We’ve got an abuse registry, I want him on it,” said Huff. 

Huff says Kylar is living in a foster home, nearing a healthy weight and on the road to recovery. 

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