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Sanitation issues cited in rescue closure

Posted: February 27, 2013 - 6:06pm  |  Updated: March 3, 2013 - 1:03am
Happy Tails Rescue employee Greg McMillan hands out treats to two of the dogs the facility hopes to find homes for before they are forced to close by the Georgia Department of Agriculture.  Photo by Jim Blaylock
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Happy Tails Rescue employee Greg McMillan hands out treats to two of the dogs the facility hopes to find homes for before they are forced to close by the Georgia Department of Agriculture.

Cleanliness issues top the complaints in reports that led to the state ordering the shutdown of a Columbia County animal rescue.

The reports were summed up in a notice filed by Georgia Department of Agriculture inspectors Jan. 23 after a series of visits to Happy Tails Rescue in Appling.

Those inspections started as an annual licensing visit last summer and led to return visits when inspectors found violations, Animal Pro­tection Manager Mark Mur­rah said in a written response to e-mailed questions.
In the final report, Murrah documented six uncorrected violations at the rescue operation.

The violations noted improper record-keeping for animals, criticized the tidiness of the 3.5-acre property and noted problems with pest control, sanitation and waste disposal.

Happy Tails first was ordered to halt rescue activities, and on Jan. 31, the state agency filed an order revoking the rescue’s license, fining the nonprofit $11,000 and ordering all of the rescue pets on the premises to be removed by March 18.

Of the total fine, $9,200 won’t have to be paid if the consent order is successfully completed, the document states. The remaining $1,800 is due in monthly installments of $150.

Barbara Gleitsmann, who lives on the property and operates Happy Tails, signed the consent order the day it was issued. There is no appeal because she signed the order and agreed to its terms, Murrah said.

When asked if any of the issues in the report directly involve care or condition of the animals, Murrah said “sanitation, waste disposal and pest control issues can all greatly impact the health of the animals in a negative way.”

The report gives the rescue passing grades for all six relevant categories of animal care, including adequate food and water and humane care, and Gleitsmann denies the pets were kept in unsanitary conditions.

“One of the visits, when they came, the crates had not yet been cleaned in the morning,” Gleitsmann said. “We are in the country – there is a mouse problem sometimes, but we put out those sticky things.”

The rescue keeps six large garbage cans for weekly waste pickup, she said, and volunteers clean the kennels and crates daily.

Since word of the agency’s closure began filtering through the community, Gleitsmann said she has heard from individuals and other area rescues offering to help.

“I’m just outraged by it,” said Frank Albert, a former Georgia state senator who adopted a cat from Happy Tails. “I really like (Gleitsmann) – I just respect her for doing what she does.

“The alternative is to take them out and snuff them, I guess.”

According to the order, the 37 rescue dogs must be removed before March 18.

If any remain after that date, “our department will assist in working with other rescue groups to find homes for these animals,” Murrah said.

“I’m the eternal optimist,” Gleitsmann said. “Maybe there’s a reason for all this stress. It’s going to wake people up to the needs of this community.”

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