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Friday, Jan 20, 2012County: Knox
Defendant/Suspect: Jimmy Wayne Hopper
A Knox County man has pleaded guilty to cruelty to animals after 22 small dogs and one cat were found in "deplorable conditions" at his home last month.
Acting on a tip, the Animal Control Unit executed a search warrant at a home on Silver Creek Road in East Knox County on Jan. 20, according to the Knox County Sheriff's Office Web site.
Inside the garage at the home, officers found 23 total animals, including 18 Chihuahuas, four Shih Tzus and one cat. Investigators say there was a strong smell of ammonia from the garage and that rugs had been stuffed at the bottoms of the doors, preventing fresh air from getting inside.
Jimmy Wayne Hopper, 57, tells 10News the purpose of the rugs was to keep the cold air out of the garage. He adds there also was a heat pump in the garage.
He also admits the garage needed to be cleaned, but stresses that the odor was coming from blankets that had already been removed from the garage and were waiting for trash pickup.
Several dogs, cats, and puppies inside the home were being maintained in acceptable conditions, according to the sheriff's office, and were allowed to remain with the owner.
Per his plea agreement of 11 months and 29 days in jail, suspended in lieu of a diversion program. Hopper surrendered all 23 animals and agreed to pay $2,000 in restitution to Young-Williams Animal Center.
He is not allowed to breed any animals or bring any new animals onto his property during this time. He had to provide a list of animals currently residing in the home and must maintain proper veterinarian records on them. He is also subject to random checks by the Animal Control Unit.
Hopper says the animals in his care were just fine, adding he had taken in several of them from a friend who passed away. He also says he placed ads in the newspaper hoping to find someone to take them, but he says those responding only wanted puppies or dogs to breed.
So, he says he kept them and cared for them as best he could. He refused to take them to a shelter.
"A live animal that's being cared for is better than a dead animal at the animal shelter," he said.
Of the 23 animals that went to Young-Williams, 15 have been placed with rescue groups. Of the remaining eight, several have medical issues, according to employees.
"When the animals came in, some of them, well, all of them were actually very scared," said Breeanna Brown, placement coordinator at Young-Williams. "Some of them have horrible, horrible dental disease, some of them have mammary tumors, and there's actually a few that have issues with their eyes as far as tear production and things of that nature."
Brown adds that the $2,000 Hopper has agreed to repay for the animals' care will be much-needed.
"We do charge a restitution fee, and that's just so that we can get our money back that we have spent to provide medical care to the animals, food, housing, things of that nature, and it's so important for us to get that money back so we can put it back into our funds to take care of the strays that we have here in the community," she said.
Brown said the animals remaining at the shelter will hopefully be placed with rescue groups soon.
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