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Former volunteer criticizes Happy Tails at Columbia County Commission meeting

Tuesday, March 19, 2013 9:22 PM
Last updated Wednesday, March 20, 2013 1:48 AM
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After supporters of a closed Columbia County animal rescue group rallied Tuesday, a former shelter worker shocked the group’s founder by slamming conditions at the facility during a public meeting.

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Barbara Gleitsmann, the owner of Happy Tails Rescue, listens as Chuck Reed describes the work she has done. Reed adopted four dogs from Happy Tails.  JIM BLAYLOCK/STAFF
Barbara Gleitsmann, the owner of Happy Tails Rescue, listens as Chuck Reed describes the work she has done. Reed adopted four dogs from Happy Tails.

About 100 supporters of Happy Tails Rescue, many of them accompanied by dogs adopted from the Appling facility, gathered in front of the Evans Government Au­di­torium before the county commission meeting in which rescue founder and president Barbara Gleitsmann was scheduled to speak.

Hailed by supporters as a “hero” for her efforts on be­half of abandoned animals, Gleits­mann said the gathering was “like a family reunion” as she called many pets by name. “This is just a pure demonstration of what all of us do,” she said as she introduced speakers who related their experiences volunteering for the rescue or adopting pets from it.

Shortly after, Gleitsmann addressed commissioners to spell out Happy Tails’ contributions to the community.

The celebratory air took a less-friendly turn when Tiffany Vernier, of Grovetown, who said she had been homeless and was allowed to live at the Appling rescue, followed Gleitsmann’s comments with condemnations of conditions at the facility.

“The conditions have been unsanitary; broken, makeshift pens, unsafe,” she said, showing pictures she took at the shelter.

As Vernier continued, a visibly upset Gleitsmann walked out of the room, saying: “This is just unfair. This is unfair.”

Vernier charged that pets’ health problems went “completely untreated,” and said she helped bury animals who died “from parvo, from cancer, from dog fights, from untreated kidney failure.”

Conditions at the facility were “senseless and inhumane,” she said. “I wish to thank everyone who has come out in support of moving those animals to a safer place.”
While the Georgia Depart­ment of Agriculture report that led to the closure of Happy Tails noted problems with sanitation and documentation, the rescue received satisfactory marks for all direct animal care issues. The final inspection stated “the animals here do appear to be receiving humane care – they all have adequate food and water and shelter.”

Elaine van der Linden, the founder of the rescue Molly’s Militia, said while she’s never known the Department of Agriculture inspectors to be unfair, she worried that a rescue group could be shut down when irresponsible pet owners receive little or no sanctions.

“We see in shelters every day, people dump dogs that have been in dog fights, every rib in their body is showing,” she said. “They don’t get a ticket for animal cruelty when they dump that dog off. Why is the standard so much higher for rescues?

“Yes, if you have a lot of dogs, you can get overwhelmed in a hurry. … When a rescuer gets overwhelmed, these people are right at her throats to finish her off. With all she’s done for the dogs and the community, we ought to be a little more understanding of her,” she said, drawing applause from Happy Tails supporters.

As the meeting ended, Vernier left with a police escort through a back door while Happy Tails supporters gathered at the front.

Gleitsmann seemed stunned that Vernier appeared during the meeting.

“Tiffany needed a place to stay,” Gleitsmann said. “I opened up my property to her. I let her live on my property for two months. It is unbelievable to me. … She is trying to destroy me.”

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TrulyWorried 03/19/13 - 10:41 pm
Homeless person

getting help - then manages to kick her helper while she is down. Fine lady indeed.

Willie Loman
Willie Loman 03/19/13 - 10:52 pm
Why no photo...

...of Tiffany Vernier biting the hand that fed her?!?!?!

Georgialina 03/19/13 - 11:17 pm
Would be jail time for me...

If I had helped a homeless person like this lady did and she then turned on me like this "woman" (Yes Sean I am trying to be nice) did today, I would be in jail tonight for the Azz whooping that this ungrateful "woman" got at the meeting. In front of God and everybody else. I do not know Ms Gleitsmann, nor have I ever been to her place, but I do know right and wrong and this formerly homeless person is just WRONG!!

texsmoke 03/20/13 - 12:05 am

Why exactly is this woman being bashed. If she is being honest in what she saw doesnt mean she should lose all morals because the woman helped her out. And i am only able to address her home 2 years ago when i visited to see a dog i wanted to adopt and it is anything like it was then i believe this woman. It was dirty and animals roaming freely. The stench almost made me puke. Hopefully all of this has been fixed since i saw it and there is s happy ending.

Stunned 2
Stunned 2 03/20/13 - 07:46 am
I adopted one of the last dogs, the kennel is great!

I adopted one of the last dogs, the kennel is great! My new dog is very healthy and well socialized. He is wiggly-wagging and HAPPY HAPPY HAPPY!!
Thanks Ms. Gleitsmann for my two great little happy tails.
The DOA complainant seems to be a psychopath. She seems mean & vile - and seems to be loving the fact that innocent animals will be losing their lives due to her ridiculous complaints. I hope that Ms. Gleitsmann will pursue legal action against that awful thief, now. To steal money from a non-profit organization is about as low as someone can go.

JRC2024 03/20/13 - 08:40 am
What a back stabbing person

What a back stabbing person Tiffany is. Why would you believe her when she couldn't even take care of herself and became homeless. Texsmoke, Kennels with alot of dogs do smell like dogs. Can't get around that.

Willow Bailey
Willow Bailey 03/20/13 - 08:52 am
Missing Information

Barry, I am concerned about Karen Gross's report given at the commission meeting regarding her knowledge of the conditions at Happy Tails was left out of this story?

Please check on that and consider an update.

Thanks so much.

Little Lamb
Little Lamb 03/20/13 - 09:48 am

From the story:

Elaine van der Linden, the founder of the rescue Molly’s Militia, . . . worried that a rescue group could be shut down when irresponsible pet owners receive little or no sanctions.

What penalties would Ms. van der Linden propose for irresponsible pet owners? They are already fined or jailed for cruelty to animals. What kind of draconian penalties would she propose? Augusta is in the process of setting up a drug court. Does Ms. van der Linden propose setting up an animal court, where judges have wide latitude to determine who is irresponsible, and then punish them according to the desires of ASPCA zealots?

csrareader 03/20/13 - 10:01 am
Sounds like the Happy Tails

Sounds like the Happy Tails owner took in one homeless "rescue" too many, and the "rescue" bit her.

Sweet son
Sweet son 03/20/13 - 12:57 pm
Sorry Happy Tails has to close!!

It seems that a homeless person and a few neighbors have been successful in shutting down a great service to the community. Hope all of you are happy!

Hope the homeless person is homeless again!

MarinerMan 03/20/13 - 02:21 pm
I'm Shocked and Bothered

I'm shocked that Vernier had guts enough to speak, since she was a homeless person that Barbara took in. I did not know about the stealing part. I can see why she needed a deputy escort. Too bad I missed the meeting. If her complaint is the reason this whole thing went down, the DOA needs to consider the source, which they apparently DID NOT ! I'm bothered by the face that I sent an email to Gary Black's office, and did not even receive a single response. The only problem I have with the chain of events, was the fact that I wish Barbara had let all of us know what was going on, BEFORE she signed the agreement. SAD...

concernmom 03/20/13 - 06:58 pm

It's kinda like taking in someone homeless and they start complaining that the bed is uncomfortable and the TV doesn't have enough stations. I mean really homeless lady? You're at a rescue kennel that is trying to take in and help as many animals as humanly possible. So maybe they got overwhelmed. My question to you: Ever read about, heard of or been to a puppy mill? That's REAL animal abuse!!!

gargoyle 03/20/13 - 08:21 pm
Whistle blowers get attacked as usual

Patrons rarely know what goes on in the kitchen.Thats why you should look at the Health Rating rather than the decore when picking a restaurant

texsmoke 03/20/13 - 11:44 pm

When i went there and like i said it was two years ago it was a mess. I am not just talking about the smell. If she improved it i want her to continue. Im a dog lover so dont get me wrong. Im going off what i saw and it was ten times worst than any shelter i had visited

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