A day after Columbia County’s largest animal rescue group closed, its boosters plan to rally today in support of the organization’s mission.
The last of Happy Tails Rescue’s dogs were adopted Sunday evening, beating the deadline the Georgia Department of Agriculture set for its closing in an agreement with owner Barbara Gleitsmann.
“I just want to praise the community,” she 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 found 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 the number of animals 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,” Mark Murrah, an animal protection manager for the Agriculture Department, said in an e-mail.
There will be other follow-up inspections, Murrah said, including making sure Gleitsmann’s animal boarding business on the same site – which is limited to 20 animals – isn’t used to house rescues in violation of the agreement.
Today’s rally is at 5:15 p.m. outside the Evans Government Center auditorium. At the 6 p.m. Columbia County Commission meeting, Gleitsmann 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 Agriculture Department began.
Animal Services Manager Linda Glasscock said she doesn’t expect the county facility to experience any problems as a result of Happy Tails’ closure. Though the shelter released significant numbers of animals to Happy Tails until December 2011, that number has dropped considerably since the county shelter moved to a larger location near Grovetown.
“She’s only adopted 118 in the past two years from this shelter,” Glasscock said. Other rescues have stepped in, and the shelter has 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 relicensing inspection, Gleitsmann said she suspects it started with complaints from a neighbor who moved near the Appling rescue. County officials acknowledge getting complaints about noise and odor, 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.”