TAZEWELL, Tenn. (WVLT) -- It was earlier this month when Tazewell police pulled over a horse trailer and found 134 dogs, chickens, peacocks and rabbits crammed into small cages with no food or water. Charlie Gregory and Taniciah Little were each charged with 134 counts of animal cruelty, although the pair insisted they hadn't done anything wrong, and were headed to the flea market to sell the animals.
"I know that it's very common for people to go to the flea market to get their barnyard animals. I think that's kind of a neat way to go about doing it, it's just that the animals need to be properly cared for," said Liza Martz, executive director of the Claiborne Animal Shelter.
Right now, there's no law against selling animals at flea markets or even on the side of the road. It's been done for years and many make their living from it. But Tazewell police say unless authorities get a complaint, patrolling flea markets isn't an option.
"Your larger places, towns will have animal control officers and people that address those situations, whereas local patrolmen here in smaller departments have to deal with everything from somebody having a skunk on their porch to you know, maybe even a murder investigation," said Chief Mark Lamb, with the Tazewell Police Department.
He said Gregory and Little were pulled over for no taillights, not because they were hauling animals to the market. He said the way the animals were stuffed into cages wasn't right, which is why they were charged.
Gregory and Little each pleaded guilty to one count of animal cruelty in court on Thursday. A judge sentenced them to one year of probation and they can't own animals during that time.
The Claiborne Animal Shelter said two of the six puppies have been adopted. All of the hens and peacocks have homes and the rabbits are heading into foster homes for the time being.
In all, the shelter said 5 rabbits and 1 dog died from poor health.