Baxter Bulletin

MOUNTAIN HOME, Ark. (AP) — Former Gamaliel resident Tammy Christine Hanson is claiming in a federal civil lawsuit that she faced "cruel and unusual punishment" while a prisoner in the Baxter County jail after being convicted of animal cruelty.

Hanson, representing herself, called several witnesses during an evidentiary hearing in the Western District of Arkansas U.S. District Court before U.S. Magistrate James Marschewski on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Marschewski ordered a continuance in the hearing late Wednesday, and directed both sides to produce additional documentation, according to a court official, who said Thursday it is unknown when the hearing will resume.

In a 40-page complaint filed with the court while she was a prisoner in the Baxter County jail, Hanson alleges jail personnel denied her medical treatment and medications, violated her right to practice her religion, gave her food contraindicated by her medically necessary diet and kept her in cells too small.

In addition, Hanson’s lawsuit — which names 17 individuals and Baxter County as defendants — claims she was kept in cells where male prisoners could see her performing bodily functions.

Some of the conditions Hanson’s complaint lists — such as improper nutrition and a lack of medical care — are similar to the charges she was convicted of after authorities raided her animal rescue compound called Every Dog Needs a Home.

Authorities served a search warrant at the Gamaliel compound in October of 2005, finding more than 400 dogs living in what they termed "deplorable conditions." Some dogs were in need of food and medical attention and many were in small pet carriers where they were forced to lie in their own waste.

The story gained national attention as many of the dogs in Hanson’s care were rescued from New Orleans after surviving Hurricane Katrina. Hanson’s civil suit asks for $300,000 in compensatory damages and punitive damages to be determined by the judge. Hanson still owes Baxter County $17,615 in court costs, fines and restitution related to her animal cruelty conviction, according to information obtained from the Baxter County Sheriff’s Office.

Hanson’s case was one of the cases cited by law enforcement officials and animal rescue organizations when the Arkansas state legislature passed a felony animal cruelty law in February 2009.

Hanson was sentenced to a year in jail in Baxter County and fined $25,000. She was also charged in Missouri.

Hanson had eluded authorities for more than three years after her January 2007 conviction on misdemeanor animal cruelty.

Officials found more than 400 dogs at Hanson’s two-acre lot, and many were sickly. Officials said about 20 animals had severe skin conditions including maggot infestations.