Among the animals in the room with the child was a non-poisonous snake that was about 10 feet long and a foot in diameter.
Henry County (Tennessee) Sheriff's deputies found a toddler locked inside a 4-by-4 foot cage and surrounded by animals, bugs and filth when they responded to an animal-cruelty call on Thursday, Sheriff Monte Belew said.
Among the animals in the room with the child was a non-poisonous snake that was about 10 feet long and a foot in diameter, Belew said.
"It could’ve easily suffocated that child if it got a chance," he said.
The child, who is thought to be about 18 months old, appeared uninjured but was obviously hungry, Belew said. A deputy at the scene cared for the toddler until the Department of Children's Services took custody of the child.
Adults at the home, including some of the toddler's relatives, were accused of a variety of crimes including aggravated child abuse and animal cruelty along with drugs and weapons violations.
"It was heartbreaking to see the conditions this child was living in," Belew said. "There was nothing for that baby in the entire house outside of the cage he was in. All his toys were in there with him.
"There were no other toys, no crib, no blankets for him. It appeared he spent most if not all his time in the cage, and the ammonia smell that came up when we lifted the cage and the bugs that were under it makes it appear as if he stayed in there a lot."
Deputies were called to a trailer in Buchanan on Thursday after an anonymous tip alerted authorities to possible animal cruelty on the property, Belew said.
Investigators found chickens roaming the yard that weren't being cared for when they first entered the property, Belew said, and they went on to find snakes, dogs locked in cages and more than 500 mice, rats and hamsters.
"We don’t know what purpose mice, rats and hamsters were serving – they could’ve been food for the snakes or they could’ve been for sale purposes – but this was definitely an unusual situation," Belew said.
He added that the occupants of the home reacted in a way that they couldn’t believe law enforcement would be in their home mandating how they live.
"I’m all for you living your life how you see fit, because we’re free to do that," Belew said. "But the conditions of this home were definitely out of the norm, and the child and the animals needed to be removed from the area."
The animals were taken to different veterinarian clinics for checkups before being taken to rescues.
Belew said the rest of the place was in a state of disarray with garbage and old food scattered all over the place.
"There was trash and food on top of the cage (where the child was held)," Belew said. "And you can tell when a child is starving and hungry, and he was starving.
"He needed to be out of there, and the animals did, too."
Henry County sheriff's deputies arrested three adults living in the home – 42-year-old Heather Scarbough, 46-year-old Thomas Jefferson Brown and 82-year-old Charles Brown – on allegations of aggravated child abuse, aggravated cruelty to animals, possession of firearm in felony, manufacturing marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia and cruelty to animals.
Thomas Brown is also charged with a count of felon with possession of a firearm from a past conviction in Florida.
Belew said more charges and more counts of each charge could be possible pending the continuing investigation.