Tim Glover said it has almost become routine that when drug agents find a methamphetamine lab, there are usually children involved.
“Whether it’s an apartment, house or vehicle where they’re making meth, most of the time there’s going to be children around,” said Glover, director of the Lauderdale County Drug Task Force. “If they’re there during the manufacturing process, they have been exposed to the chemicals and other residue the labs give off.”
Drug agents not only find children exposed to meth manufacturing, but animals as well.
“It’s not uncommon to go into a house where a meth cook is going on and find animals, usually dogs,” Lauderdale County Drug Task Force agent Lowery Davis said.
Jessica Yokley, director of the Lawrence County (Tenn.) Animal League, said her agency is seeing more and more animals brought in because of meth.
“We’re averaging 10 animals a month, and so far it’s been just dogs,” she said. “They range from small puppies to adult dogs.
“Just think what it would be like for a human to inhale and digest those chemicals used in the (manufacturing process), much less a small dog.”
Davis said in one case a small puppy developed sores from the chemical fumes that are given off during a meth cook.
“The sores were almost like chemical burns from the fumes,” Davis said.
He said when meth is in the cooking process, the chemical residue given off is heavier than air so it settles on the floor “where the animals or children are more likely to get it on them and be affected.”
Davis said the chemical fumes cause irritation, resulting in the child or animal scratching so severely, a sore is formed.
Brandon Fisher, a veterinarian at Smith Animal Clinic in Florence, treated the puppy Davis found. “He had a lot of skin issues. But once we got him over them, he had a chance to be healthy,” Fisher said.
He said animals exposed to the meth-manufacturing process could have respiratory issues.
“And there could be other problems with the central nervous system if the animals digest the substance,” Fisher said. “So far, the majority of issues I’ve seen is from smoke and chemicals.”
Yokley said the animals she is getting are usually going through withdrawal.
“Just like a human,” she said, “the dogs are malnourished, they shake, they’re in poor shape. All of the ones we’ve gotten and put in foster care have made it.”
She noted a Pomeranian puppy that weighed about two pounds.
“It couldn’t eat; all he did was stand there and shake,” she said. “He was in poor shape.”
She said the dog had been in a residence where the people made and smoked meth and crack cocaine for four days straight.
“The dog had withdrawals so bad that he was hallucinating,” she said.
Yokley said veterinarians had to sedate the dog for a week and give him medicines intravenously for a week to “detox him and get everything out of his system.”
“We had to sit up with him and help him with the hallucinations and the withdrawals,” she said. “It’s a miracle he made it, but he did.”
She said she is working with a rat terrier that is on Prozac, which is used to treat depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
“It’s because of all the meth the poor little thing was around,” Yokley said. “When she’s on the Prozac, she’s the sweetness thing there is. Without it, she’s wild and aggressive.”
Fisher said it’s hard to predict the long-term effects of the chemical.
“It could cause problems with organs, the central nervous system,” Fisher said. “Skin, eye and ear irritation is something we can get them over. But there could be long-term effects if the chemicals are digested or get in their central nervous system. It’s just really an unknown.”
Yokley said charges can be filed against people whose meth cook harms an animal.
“We’ve had some prosecuted, and they were found guilty,” she said. “It’s nothing but cruelty when the animals are kept right there where the meth is bring cooked.”
Tom Smith can be reached at 256-740-5757 or tom.smith@TimesDaily.com.