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By DAMON LAWRENCE
John Sanchez, a criminal investigator with the District Attorney General’s Office, said he understands the passion people have about dogs.
“I have a couple of dogs myself,” he said. “I don’t have any children. They are my kids.”
That passion was on display during an impromptu press conference Sanchez and Roane County Animal Shelter director John Griffin held at the courthouse.
Some dog rescue groups wanted answers about the case involving Margie Dodd.
Authorities executed a search warrant at her 446 Poland Hollow Road home on Nov. 4 and discovered around 100 dogs. Twenty-eight were taken from her possession.
The dogs were crammed in pens reeking of feces and urine.
Griffin described it as “the worst I’ve ever seen.”
Sanchez said Dodd faces a dozen charges, including six counts of animal cruelty.
She appeared in General Sessions Court on Monday. Judge Jeff Wicks assigned a public defender to represent her and reset her court date for Jan. 4.
Sanchez said Dodd also agreed to relinquish her rights to the animals that were seized during the Nov. 4 raid and about a dozen or so that remained in her custody.
“What we’re going to be doing is going to her property and getting those animals now,” Sanchez said. “Those animals are going to be taken from her, treated and made available for adoption.”
Sanchez said Dodd is not allowed to have any animals between now and her next court date.
There was applause during the press conference, but some also expressed frustration about how the case has gone so far.
“I’m really disappointed that she was allowed to get rid of 70 to 80 animals without anyone knowing where they are in just a matter of weeks,” said Karen Marquand of Small Breed Rescue of East Tennessee.
Sherrie Farver with Little Paws Canine Rescue said authorities should have removed all of the dogs during the November raid.
“We aren’t pleased the way it was handled,” she said. “Every dog should have been removed from there.”
Sanchez said the 28 dogs taken last month were the ones in most need of medical attention. Approximately 80 were left behind.
Authorities said they planned to interview Dodd about the whereabouts of the other dogs.
“As far as Ms. Dodd has told us, there’s about 14 dogs that’s still on her property,” Sanchez said. “That is a far cry from the 80 dogs that were there.”
Sanchez said a court order requires Dodd to cooperate with the investigation.
“Given our concern about the well-being of those dogs and the population at-large, since some of those dogs don’t have rabies shots, the order includes that she gives us information on where these dogs are located,” Sanchez said. “We are going to be following up on that making sure those dogs have a good home and their shots are up to date.”
Farver also expressed some displeasure with District Attorney General Russell Johnson.
“He’s managed to keep his name out of this,” she said.
Sanchez defended his boss.
“District Attorney General Russell Johnson has been very active in this case,” he told Farver. “He has met with you, and he has fielded questions and answers.”
Prior to last month’s raid, Griffin said there had been previous investigations into Dodd.
“We did get another call saying that she had more animals there,” Griffin said. “At that point, that’s when we determined that it wasn’t going to be something that was ever going to go away, so that’s when we began our animal cruelty investigation toward her.”
Sanchez encouraged the animal groups to work with authorities instead of assigning blame.
“We’re passionate about this,” Sanchez said. “But there’s a difference between being passionate and constructive and just being passionate, so we need to make sure that we concert our efforts and work together.”
Marquand said she looks forward to doing that.
“I view this as a success at this point,” she said. “I’m disappointed we didn’t go in and get them all initially. You all know that, but that’s behind us and we want to go forward.”
Griffin told the crowd that his department hopes to learn from the Dodd case.
“That’s why we have our after-action reviews,” he said. “We get together and say what could have been done better.”