DAYTON, Tenn. — A former Rhea County Animal Shelter volunteer pleaded "no contest" Tuesday to a charge of animal cruelty.
Richard Orlowske, who was arrested on Valentine's Day, entered his plea at the Rhea County Courthouse in downtown Dayton.
"It's not killing my dream," Orlowske, a disabled Vietnam veteran and former Rhea County Animal Shelter volunteer, said after his plea was rendered to Judge James McKenzie in Circuit Court. Orlowske was ordered to pay $467.50 in court costs and fines and not allowed to reopen his "Save My Tail" rescue in Evensville, Tenn., for 11 months and 30 days.
Orlowske has described his advocacy as a "rescue calling." Following the ruling Tuesday, he said he would continue to fight for animal justice. Orlowske still can own animals personally at his residence.
During court proceedings, Attorney Justin C. Angel told McKenzie that Orlowske wouldn't "have any animals on the ("Save My Tail" rescue) premises for the purpose of rescue."
Angel said a guilty plea could have closed the rescue operation altogether, as opposed to a two- or three-year delay with an innocent plea. Orlowske's no-contest plea will allow him to return sooner to his goal of saving animals from euthanasia, he said.
Orlowske was charged on Feb. 14 with one count of animal cruelty, which stemmed from a search by Rhea County Sheriff's Office officials of his "Save My Tail" rescue located off Back Valley Road in Evensville.
Officials seized more than 30 dogs living on the premises, along with cages and bowls used for the animals.
Prior to leaving the courtroom Tuesday, Orlowske asked Rhea County Animal Shelter officials for $1,500 or the return of his feeders and cages.
Detective Mike Owenby and Animal Control Officer Thomas Wilson met him at an offsite location later in the day with the requested items.
Kimberly McMillian is based in Rhea County. Contact her at kdj424@ bellsouth.net.