An animal rescue group ordered to close by the state is asking supporters to rally before next week’s Columbia County Commission meeting.
Happy Tails Rescue owner Barbara Gleitsmann said she’s been “amazed” by the number of people who have come forward since the state Department of Agriculture accepted her agreement to shut down after inspectors filed repeated complaints about sanitation and bookkeeping problems at the Appling facility.
She’s asked them to meet in front of the Evans Government Center Auditorium at 5:15 p.m. March 19, ahead of the 6 p.m. commission meeting, where she is scheduled to speak.
Even though she signed off on the Department of Agriculture’s findings and agreed to have all animals out of the shelter by Monday, Gleitsmann said she hopes that, with enough support, they’ll at least get a reprieve on the deadline for closure.
Commissioners also need to get a message, she said.
“I just want the government officials to see the support in this community,” Gleitsmann said. “I don’t think they get it. I don’t think they have a clue. They’re not discussing the impact that this group has had on the community.”
County Commission Chairman Ron Cross said Happy Tails has asked the commission to send a letter to the Department of Agriculture asserting that the private shelter saves the county money by taking stray dogs from the Columbia County Animal Services shelter.
Commissioners don’t plan to do so, he said, because Happy Tails’ dispute is with the state.
Besides, he said, commissioners have heard some of the same complaints about noise and odor at the shelter, which a state inspector said had too many animals for the amount of space provided.
County staffers currently are studying other communities for ordinances that would restrict the number of dogs or cats that could be kept on a single property, Cross said.
“I think we need that,” he said. “The number of dogs (at Happy Tails) has been the single biggest factor that has come to me.”
The number of animals at Happy Tails has been cut by about half since Gleitsmann signed the consent order agreeing to remove the rescue animals and shut down for a year, she said, with about 18 left to adopt.
“We’re working as hard as we can work, and I’m confident this can all work out,” she said.