DECATUR, Ga. - An animal cruelty case in DeKalb County left the rescue community stunned and saddened because it involved one of their own.
Longtime animal rescuer Aaron Thompson was arrested on one felony county of animal cruelty for what investigators found inside two houses. He and his longtime girl friend Chrissy Kaczynski spent more than a decade together rescuing unwanted dogs through the non-profit group Friends of DeKalb Animals.
But when the two split up in October, Kaczynski said they also agreed to split up responsibility for the animals still in their care. She took six dogs with her to a new house in Eatonton. Thompson was left with a dozen animals, including a pot belly pig, spread between two houses across the street from each other in Decatur.
One month later, DeKalb County animal control officers visited Thompson after receiving a tip about abused animals. One of the dogs in Thompson's care had already died; others were "emaciated," according to the police report, with "ribs, hip bones... clearly visible."
When the FOX 5 I-Team stopped by Thompson's house a few days later, the stench was still overwhelming. We found him on his sofa in a room filled with empty cages and debris. He said he could barely move.
"I am sick of it," he moaned. "I cannot believe that it's going on. I can't believe she put me in this predicament."
Neighbor Rebecca Novak spent days trying to clean up the mess left behind. Dog feces and urine permeated the hardwood floors.
"She left all these dogs behind and I was upset because they're her dogs and why would she leave them behind?" Novak asked. "And I wasn't upset until I realized Aaron's condition that I was just mad."
Thompson claimed he couldn't walk between the two houses to properly care for any of the dogs. He said his ex never checked on him or the dozen animals they had rescued together. That included a pot belly pig named Charlotte that neighbor Novak found with protruding ribs and little shelter. Kaczynski had posted for years on social media about Charlotte.
"When you're in rescue, you don't abandon animals," Novak complained. She also helps an animal rescue group. "We're constantly cleaning up other people's messes when other people abandon animals."
Chrissy Kaczynski would only talk to us by phone.
"This has been devastating," she told me. "My worst nightmare. I left the dogs with him because I never doubted he'd take care of them. I trusted him that he'd call me if there would be a problem. I never anticipated I'd have to worry because you'd think you'd know that person."
She insisted all the dogs and Aaron were healthy when she moved away.
Kaczynski will not face any charges. A law enforcement source familiar with the investigation said there was no evidence the cruelty conditions were there before Aaron Thompson was left alone to care for the dogs.
But neighbor Rebecca Novak took pictures which she believed show more than just one month's worth of neglect. Chrissy admitted to us she had not been in one of the houses for more than a year.
Foster homes are supposed to be inspected regularly by the rescue group that placed the dogs there. Friends of DeKalb Animals president Lynn Herron said she relied on Kaczynski to inspect her own houses.
Kaczynski told me it was her ex-boyfriend's job to find a new home for Charlotte the pot belly pig. After the arrest, Charlotte was moved to The Tucker Farm where the owners said she is thriving.
Meanwhile, Aaron Thompson has been living alone. No partner. No animals. Just a future court date.
"If I have to have some criminal charges against me, I'll just have to deal with them," he vowed. "Cause I can't keep living with something over my head."