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Tennessee dog rescue operator charged with animal cruelty

(Reuters) - A Tennessee woman who said she ran a dog rescue operation has been charged with animal cruelty after authorities said they found 37 trash bags of animal remains, four dead dogs in cages and dozens of malnourished dogs at properties linked to her.

Nicole Hulbig, 29, was charged with four counts of aggravated animal cruelty after authorities found the four dead, caged dogs in a garage at a house she rented with her husband, Eric Hulbig, who was charged with the same counts, said Tim Clifton, director of animal control for Montgomery County, 40 miles (64 km) northwest of Nashville.

Nicole Hulbig also was charged with eight counts of animal cruelty in nearby Sumner County after authorities went to a farm where she was staying and found 39 live dogs and the bags containing remains, Sergeant Sean Ryan, who leads the Sumner County sheriff's animal control unit, said on Tuesday.The Hulbigs, who were charged last week, could not be reached for comment. The dogs seized in Sumner County were expected to survive and a few had been returned to their owners.

Ryan said the eight counts of animal cruelty in Sumner County stemmed from the treatment of the live animals and she would not face charges in connection with the remains.

Nicole Hulbig told authorities a distemper outbreak had killed the dogs about nine months ago. A veterinarian treated one of Hulbig's dogs for distemper and supplied her with drugs to treat the other dogs, Ryan said.

The animals were believed to be in the bags for nine months to a year and no cause of death could be determined, Ryan said.

"It was either just decomposed sludge inside the bags or they were pretty much dust inside the bags," Ryan said.

(Reporting by David Bailey in Minneapolis; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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