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LINCOLN COUNTY, Tenn. – Last Friday, animal rescues and humane agents removed nearly 100 animals from a property on McCaylee Lane in Frankewing, Tennessee.

The animals were found in gruesome conditions, living in their own feces and among dead animals.

Dogs, horses, mini horses, donkeys, sheep, geese, turtles and parrots were among the animals rescued.

Laura Lifer (60), was arrested on 18 charges of animal abuse. Lifer has an animal abuse record in Alabama as well. Terry Davis, Lifer’s sister, spoke with WHNT reporter Ethan Fitzgerald who broke the story as the rescue was happening last week.

“These animals are her kids and her family,” said Davis.

For those looking at the visual evidence of abuse, Davis wants to make one thing clear: Lifer never intended to hurt her animals and what started out as good intention, quickly became too much to handle.

“Laura caught every one of those street dogs and paid to have them fixed and then turned them back out because there was people that loved them but she said they didn’t need to have more puppies,” said Davis.

The family maintains that Lifer frequently fostered and rehabilitated disabled dogs.

When asked if Davis was aware of the animal hoarding and past criminal charges in Alabama, Davis said, “yes.”

Davis adds she had little contact with Lifer over the last year and a half. She had last seen the property about 6-months ago.

Many people who saw the first report, were shocked to see the rescue kennels stacked up and full of dogs.

“It just broke my heart to see them in cages. They were never in cages. I felt that no one is going to love them like Laura loved them,” said Davis.

The family maintains most of the dogs on the property were older and would not likely find new homes at a shelter because of age and disabilities. Davis says her sister was giving them the best home she could. The family maintains Lifer was not running a puppy mill, instead saying Lifer started breeding a small amount of dogs to bring in money to feed the animals.

Many neighbors told WHNT they tried to offer help to Lifer, but she declined aggressively. Lincoln County does not have an official animal agency that can enforce animal laws. Instead, the sheriff’s office often times gets saddled with that, which requires help from the volunteer-based humane society and the state veterinarian’s office.

“It would be good to have people that are trained in that field that have the expertise. Instead of us having to rely on somebody else to do it,” said Sheriff Murray Blackwelder.

Both the Humane Society of Lincoln County and the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office believe animal issues across the county warrant county intervention in the form of a dedicated office/shelter.

Meanwhile, more than 60 dogs were transferred to shelters in Lincoln County, Giles County and Nashville.

Larger animals went to rescues like Redemption Road Rescue.

“This was an addiction. It’s got to be changed. We’ve had several cases through the years that have been hoarding cases where they moved cross county lines,” said Lori Collins with Redemption Road.

Collins says the animals they rescued will need some time before they can be considered for adoption.

If you would like to help, contact or donate to the following agencies:

Lifer was arrested and is currently out on bond.