The owner of Aunt Laura’s Dog Grooming and Boarding has been charged with 18 counts of animal cruelty after authorities seized more than 100 animals at her Frankewing residence April 30.
In addition to the animals seized at Laura Lifer’s residence, which is in the jurisdiction of Lincoln County, the Giles County Animal Shelter helped take in 26 dogs surrendered voluntarily by Lifer from her Pulaski-based business.
The owner claimed most of the dogs found at the business belonged to her, which local authorities said raised their suspicion upon an initial welfare check at the business conducted April 22 after receiving an anonymous tip.
“On that first welfare check, we counted at least 57 dogs there with over half of them belonging to her,” said Giles County Animal Shelter Director Morgan Sutton. “It definitely made us wonder what was going on at home if she was bringing them there. So, basically what we found were the unsanitary living conditions, and none of the dogs were vaccinated for rabies, and that is a state law violation.”
Sutton said she and Animal Control Officer Randy Boaz began to make phone calls inquiring about the situation when they discovered that Lifer’s residence was just across the county line. This threw a wrench into the investigation until Sutton said they received a break upon contacting Tennessee Department of Agriculture Staff Veterinarian Dr. Jill Johnson.
Johnson informed Sutton and Boaz that there was already an open investigation into Lifer in Lincoln County from December 2019 that local authorities had not been aware of due to the fact that Lincoln County does not have an animal control officer.
With the help of Johnson, Sutton and Boaz performed another welfare check of Lifer’s business, this time finding only 12 dogs just one week after discovering 57. The owner admitted to carrying the dogs to her home.
“With Dr. Johnson assessing the previous complaint in Lincoln County back in December with her livestock and then with our current complaint of her dogs missing from her grooming facility, since [Dr. Johnson] works for the state, she was the one able to say, yes, there is definitely something going on. We need to investigate her residence,” Sutton said.
The conditions found at the residence led to the subsequent charges and confiscation of the animals, according to Sutton.
Authorities reportedly found unsanitary conditions and signs of decomposition that led to the surrender of approximately 50 dogs and more than 100 total animals.
While the warrant only applied to the surrendering of the animals at her residence, Lifer agreed to surrender the dogs at her business as well.
Several hours later, authorities said they were surprised to find more than twice as many dogs at the business as they had originally been aware of in the previous visit.
“When we got back to the grooming facility, we found dogs hidden in other rooms, and honestly, places that we didn’t see the first time around,” Sutton said. “We ended up confiscating 26 from her groom shop. We went there with the intentions of pulling 12 dogs when we got there, but obviously once we got there with some in rooms we hadn’t been aware of, she had them hid. There was a momma dog in there giving birth. Four newborns make up part of the 26.”
The 26 dogs remained at the Giles County Animal Shelter until May 5, when the Nashville Humane Society took possession of the dogs which will receive veterinary care before eventually being eligible for adoption.
“They have a long road ahead of them, honestly. Not one single dog confiscated from Laura’s residence or groom shop is adoptable right now. All of them need some type of vet treatment first, and then they will,” Sutton said.
While Lifer did not keep detailed paperwork, Sutton said that the Giles County Animal Shelter worked to seek out the owners of any dogs that did not belong to her.
Boaz emphasized that the ultimate goal of these types of investigations is the welfare of the animals.
“The general public will get somewhat frustrated, thinking nothing is being done, but we’re gathering a solid case,” he said. “Our ultimate goal is taking care of the animals. If we don’t have a solid case and do a thorough investigation, whoever the defendant may be could get the animals back. It takes a little time to build a good, solid case.”
Sutton also advised anyone who wishes to surrender an animal to contact the shelter for more information.
“We don’t take the surrenders here at the shelter, but we do encourage anyone who does need to surrender an animal and needs help, to contact us because we do have other contacts in place to help them get the animal where it needs to go,” she said.
Lifer was released from the Lincoln County jail on $36,000 bond and is currently awaiting her court date.