DAYTON, Tenn. — Rhea County animal activist Richard Orlowske was greeted on Valentine's Day not with flowers but with a half-inch-thick mattress on the floor of the county jail after his arrest that day on an animal cruelty charge.
"The way I've been portrayed right now, [I believe] there's intimidation involved," said Orlowske, who was released from jail Friday on $5,000 bond. "Once I'm vindicated, everybody will see."
The charge against Orlowske, 57, stems from a search of his "Save My Tail" rescue, located off Back Valley Road in Evensville, Tenn., by Rhea County Sheriff's Office personnel. They seized more than 30 dogs living on the premises, he said.
Detective Mike Owenby confirmed that Orlowske, a former volunteer at the Rhea County Animal Shelter and a disabled Vietnam veteran, was taken into custody and charged with animal cruelty based on "neglect, mostly, and lack of adequate food and shelter."
Orlowske had been dismissed from his duties at the animal shelter in early December 2012 after an alleged confrontation with a dog owner on shelter property.
Rhea County veterinarian Dr. Matthew Sachs told news media last week that the "animals had been neglected ... [there was] no food in the cages."
Orlowske's wife, Veronica, questioned how what she called a five-minute examination of the premises by officials could result in a determination of animal cruelty.
Orlowske said he had purchased 250 pounds of food early that week. Food and supplies are purchased every week, paid for out of pocket or through occasional donations, he said.
He said an accusation of unclean cages came about because of timing of the officials' visit.
"I have paperwork from another local vet," Orlowske said, that attests to the care his animals received.
He also said the accusation that he paid his friends to adopt animals from the county shelter was untrue.
"I take dogs people had left with me," Orlowske said.
He and his wife also maintain officials did not identify themselves or disclose that they had a search warrant immediately upon their arrival at his property.
Orlowske is scheduled to appear April 2 in Rhea County Criminal Court on the cruelty charge.