The day after Columbia County’s largest animal rescue group shut down, its supporters plan to rally in support of the organization’s mission.
Happy Tails Rescue adopted out the last of its animals Sunday evening, beating the deadline the Georgia Department of Agriculture set for the organization’s closure in an agreement with owner Barbara Gleitsmann.
“I just want to praise the community,” Gleitsmann said. “Citizens came forward, and all the dogs are safe.”
Gleitsmann agreed in February to surrender Happy Tails’ license and not reapply for a year. The order came after a series of failed inspections beginning last summer that noted problems with sanitation and documentation for animals at the facility.
The rescue received satisfactory marks for all direct animal care issues, with the final inspection agreeing that “the animals here do appear to be receiving humane care – they all have adequate food and water and shelter,” but noting that the number of animals at the facility appeared to be “excessive.”
To verify the closure, “an initial follow-up inspection will be done at the facility to ensure compliance with the consent order,” said Mark Murrah, animal protection manager for the Department of Agriculture in an email.
There also will be follow-up inspections, Murrah said, including making sure Gleitsmann’s animal boarding business on the same site – which is limited to 20 animals at a time – isn’t used to house rescues in violation of the agreement.
Tuesday’s rally, set for 5:15 p.m. outside the Evans Government Center Auditorium, precedes Gleitsmann’s scheduled presentation to the Columbia County Board of Commissioners meeting at 6 p.m. in which she said plans to highlight the rescue’s contributions to the community.
Commissioners don’t seem to understand the “depth” of that contribution, she said, which includes rescuing 961 animals from Columbia County Animal Services from January 2008 to December 2011, and equipping each Columbia County Fire Rescue station with oxygen masks for animals.
“They need to know that,” she said, expressing disappointment at what she describes as a lack of contact from commissioners since the disagreement with the Department of Agriculture began.
Columbia County Animal Services Manager Linda Glasscock said she doesn’t expect the county facility to experience any problems as a result of Happy Tails’ closure. While the shelter released significant numbers of animals free of charge to Happy Tails until December 2011, that number has dropped considerably since the county shelter moved to its new, larger location near Grovetown.
“She’s only adopted 118 in the past two years from this shelter,” Glasscock said.
“What’s happened, ever since Barbara has not been adopting from us for the last, basically, two years, is that two or three other rescues have come on board – actually, two rescues formed that are former board members of Happy Tails – and they’re taking up the slack,” Glasscock said.
The newer shelter also adopted out 100 more pets in 2012 than it did the year before, she added.
Though state inspectors said Happy Tails’ problems began with a routine re-licensing inspection last summer, Gleitsmann suspects it really started with complaints from a neighbor who moved near the Appling facility after it already was in operation. County officials acknowledge getting complaints about noise and odor regarding the rescue and boarding facility, but Gleitsmann said she was there first.
“I was responsible,” she said. “I checked the zoning before I bought the property. I didn’t set out to be a bad neighbor. I followed the rules, and I don’t think the county has been supportive. I haven’t felt any support from the county officials at all.”