Reports cite Happy Tails for sanitation issues

Cleanliness issues top the complaints in reports that led to the state’s shutting down a Columbia County animal rescue.

Those reports were summed up in a final 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 a routine, annual licensing visit last summer, department Animal Protection Manager Mark Murrah said in a written response to e-mailed questions.

When inspectors found violations, they came back repeatedly to check on the progress that Happy Tails was making – and ultimately weren’t satisfied.

In the final report, Murrah documented six uncorrected violations at the rescue.

Many of the violations focused on proper record-keeping for animals at the facility, but the report also criticized the tidiness of the 3.5-acre property and cited problems with pest control, sanitation and waste disposal.

As a result of those inspections, Happy Tails first was ordered to halt rescue activities. Then, on Jan. 31, the state agency filed an order revoking the license for Happy Tails, fining the nonprofit $11,000 and ordering all of the rescue pets to be removed  by March 18. The order was signed by Georgia Agriculture Secretary Gary Black.

Of that amount, $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.

Asked whether 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 six 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 her – I just respect her for doing what she does.

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

The 38 rescue dogs – now minus one placed on “trial” adoption Wednesday morning – must be removed by March 18, according to an agriculture department spokesman.

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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