Columbia County’s largest private animal rescue group is being shut down after the Georgia Department of Agriculture revoked its operating license.
Happy Tails Rescue, which recently celebrated its 10th anniversary, has until mid-March to find homes for the 38 dogs housed at the rescue’s Appling facility, said Department of Agriculture spokeswoman Mary Katherin Yearta.
“We issued a stop order to them, and right now they have 30 days to find homes for the animals,” Yearta said. “The case is still open and we are still in the process of working with them.”
The action resulted from violations Happy Tails failed to correct, Yearta said.
“It’s like a witch hunt,” said Barbara Gleitsmann, who operates Happy Tails adjacent to her residence. “They are just relentless.”
Agriculture inspectors have been visiting the property since last summer, alleging different minor violations each time, she said.
“Every time they come around they find something else,” Gleitsmann said, including complaining about cobwebs, rust on cages and improper lighting.
She insisted that none of the allegations involved treatment of the animals at the shelter. Yearta said she couldn’t discuss the findings while the case is under review.
“If you came to my house right now, you would see the condition of every dog on the property, and there’s not one of them that does not look better, if not significantly better, than when we got them,” Gleitsmann said, “and many of them are from tax-supported shelters.”
From 2008 through 2011, Gleitsmann said, Columbia County Animal Services released 1,389 animals to rescue groups. “Happy Tails took 961 of those,” she said.
She’s not sure what will happen to any remaining dogs if all of them aren’t adopted by the deadline, and Yearta said she isn’t, either.
“We need help,” Gleitsmann said. “It’s a tough situation.”