Rescue groups criticize county shelter

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Some groups dedicated to animal welfare in Columbia County are engaged in a feud that has the county's Animal Care and Control department defending its operation, including the practice of euthanization.

Heartsong Animal Rescue and CSRA Happy Tails Rescue Inc. claim that the county-run animal shelter does not provide proper medical care to dogs and cats, mistreats some of them and fails to do enough to save them from euthanization.

County officials, however, dispute those claims. They say county taxpayers already spend about $26,000 a year to accommodate rescue groups by holding animals an extra five days before they are collected and put in foster care. The expense the county would incur by holding animals indefinitely would be too large a financial burden, Columbia County Commissioner Tommy Mercer said.

Barbara Gleitsmann, a co-founder and president of CSRA Happy Tails Rescue Inc., said she once rescued from Animal Control a husky that lost an eye because of a lack of medical treatment. She also said she once saved a pointer mix so malnourished she could see its ribs and spine through its coat.

"If I had done that as a private citizen I would have been cited for animal cruelty," Ms. Gleitsmann said.

Erik Emmons, of Heartsong Animal Rescue, said he once saved a dog with a broken leg that had received no treatment from animal control.

County officials said sick animals are euthanized to prevent the spread of disease, but that workers make every effort to treat animals for injuries.

Mr. Mercer says the heart of the matter is that the rescue groups want the county to operate a no-kill shelter.

Euthanization is a last resort, but sometimes necessary, Mr. Mercer said.

"The stress of doing that on the staff is phenomenal and for them (rescue groups) to come up and get on them for euthanizing animals adds to the stress," he said. "These people are unbearable."

Animal Care and Control Manager Linda Fulmer agrees with Mr. Mercer's assessment that sometimes euthanization is unavoidable.

Officers must respond to all calls and often have to pick up sick, injured, aggressive, feral or otherwise unadoptable animals, Ms. Fulmer said.

"Rescue groups get to pick and choose what they get," she said. "It would be a lot easier on me, my staff, if we didn't have to euthanize. Unfortunately, the numbers that we pick up are much higher than even what these rescue groups can do because there is only so many kennels in which to put these animals."

Donna Evans, the president of Columbia County Humane Society, said a no-kill shelter would be wonderful, but she understands why it is not a reality.

"They have a different mission than we do (as a rescue group)," Ms. Evans said. "Our big thing is, like all rescue groups, you wish they could keep them indefinitely. Guess what? They can't. They have to take everything that comes through the door. And when you have to do that, you don't have the room."

Ms. Gleitsmann said she has volunteered to find other shelters for animals, including numerous breed-specific shelters, but was turned away. She said animal control personnel often turn to euthanization without adequately seeking alternatives.

"There are people willing to assist, but the door is closed," she said.

Ms. Fulmer said that isn't true.

When an animal is brought into the shelter, it is held for five days to give its owner an opportunity to reclaim it. It is then put up for adoption. Information on adoptable and healthy animals the public has not shown interest in are e-mailed to area rescue groups and any local and out-of-the-area breed-specific groups, Ms. Fulmer said.

"We actually call or e-mail other breed-specific rescues for them to come get (the animal)," she said. "So we do that also to try to get them out of here. We'd much rather them go out the front door, adopted to a good home."

Both Mr. Emmons and Ms. Gleitsmann said they've complained about the conditions at the county shelter to the state Department of Agriculture, which oversees government-run shelter operations.

However, according to recent reports, the Department of Agriculture gave Animal Care and Control a passing grade, as did a Columbia County grand jury. Though Mr. Mercer had considered getting an independent group to conduct an inspection of animal control facilities, he has since backed off, saying the state and county reports are enough.

"We don't get any ... calls about animal control," he said. "Nobody complains about them but these rescue groups."

Mr. Emmons said he doubts those complaints will cease until county officials replace Ms. Fulmer, which Mr. Mercer said won't happen. However, if the groups can engage in "honest discussion" and "trust-building measures," Ms. Gleitsmann said she believes common ground can be found.

"It's game playing, and animals are lost because of it," she said. "We can do better."

Reach Donnie Fetter or Valerie Rowell at (706) 868-1222, or ccchron@augustachronicle.com.

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peonynut
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peonynut 08/01/08 - 08:31 am
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Wonder if they treat the

Wonder if they treat the children rescued from abusive homes the same way? Do they euthanize them? There are no kill shelters all over the country, why not contact them and find out how they manage? Contrary to popular belief, animals also have souls.

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 08/01/08 - 08:53 am
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I have never seen a rescue

I have never seen a rescue group that did not criticize animal shelters. They criticize, but they will not step up to the plate and take care of the animals that the shelters have to deal with.

me too
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me too 08/01/08 - 09:31 am
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First of all, Animal Care and

First of all, Animal Care and Control have nothing to do with children and that statement was irrelevant. My comment is to dispute some statements in this article. I am a member of a breed specific rescue group. I am contacted frequently by Columbia Co. Animal Care & Control when they have our specific breed or breed mix in their shelter and no one has claimed them. Unlike Heartsong and Happy Tails, our group does not pick and choose who we like - we take any dog related to our breed, rescue it and find it a new home (which sometimes takes months & months, and occasionally never). CCACC does not have the funding for medical staff, and do the best they can. The rescue groups doing the constant complaining are undermining the work that these people do, and wasting valuable time dragging their supervisor and staff into meeting after meeting. They don't want to compromise, they just want things their way, which is unrealistic. I notice Ms. Gleitsmann didn't mention the lack of medical follow-up that recently closed Happy Tails down for quarantine. Talk about game playing.

TCB22
652
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TCB22 08/01/08 - 10:18 am
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All things are possible given

All things are possible given enough money. If taxpayers want a no-kill shelter and are willing to greatly increase the amount of funding for this, it can be done. It would mean a tax increase to have a large enough sanctuary and staff to do this. Realistically though, are there really enough homes for thousands of cats and dogs that come in through the shelter each year? Do you want dangerous or sick animals released back into the public? Do you think these animals are better off living in stacked cages in various homes thoughout the County? You need to only look at surrounding counties that have no shelter to see what is going to eventually happen in Columbia County if the animal rescue zealots have their way. Get your animals fixed people and solved this problem at its root.

deeplyconcerned
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deeplyconcerned 08/01/08 - 10:21 am
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While your efforts to rescue

While your efforts to rescue animals from CCAC are admirable, 'me too', your facts are incorrect about Happy Tails and Ms. Gleitsmann. I am familiar with the case you reference. This was a illness case that was rescued from CCAC. The animals were taken directly to the vet from CCAC by Ms. Gleitsmann due to symptoms (something CCAC would NOT do on their own). When virus was suspected, CCAC was notified by Ms. Gleitsmann and investigation commenced. At least one animal from the same pen (identical exposure) remained at CCAC and Ms. Fulmer outright LIED - saying the animal had been in quarantine there the length of it's stay. There are eye witnesses that can testify they saw that animal in the general population all through the week at CCAC. This is the deplorable level of ethics at CCAC which the public, state dept. of agriculture, and the rescues must deal with. I am quite experienced with this subject and the goals of the rescues for a no-kill county ARE realistic. Unfortunately, it requires scruples and compassion on the side of the powers-that-be, in addition to 'fiscal responsibility'. Sadly, from what I witness, it seems the compassion piece is unatainable from Ms. Fulmer and Mr. Mercer. Until someone is willing to accept the possibility that Ms. Fulmer is not forthright with goings on at CCAC, I don't see any change on the horizon. Cover-up is a very dirty business.

TWright987
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TWright987 08/01/08 - 10:29 am
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We DO have a no-kill shelter

We DO have a no-kill shelter at Lake Olmstead, and if anyone wants to take a stroll through there, it is sad. There are animals there that have been there for years. There are animals that can't be in contact with other animals due to fear and aggression when they are in mixed company. They live isolated lives in a cage. Day after day. Food, water, go outside, for a few minutes at a time, a few times a day, and back to the cage. Next. It is like a dark, damp, smelly dungeon in that place. BUT, we have a no kill shelter, none the less..... Where is the Quality of Life there that the rescue groups are referring to in a no kill shelter? If they spent the remainder of their life in a home, instead of a cage, it might be different. I am not in favor of convenience euthanasia, by NO means. I work with animals in a medical facility every day. I do speak from experience.

me too
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me too 08/01/08 - 12:23 pm
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deeply, if my information was

deeply, if my information was incorrect, I apologize. I got that information from a volunteer at Happy Tails, who stated to me that the puppy was adopted out immediately after Happy Tails rescued it and it had not received any prior medical attention. I absolutely agree that CC Animal Control does not give medical attention as needed in many, many cases. I sincerely wish they had the funding to do so, having a vet on call for their facility would be extremely helpful to all potential adoptee's (nothing is more upsetting than adopting an animal that is extremely ill) who may not be able to afford long term or expansive care for the animals, the rescue groups (who could use their funding donations towards finding more fosters and permanent homes), etc. Please remember that Ms. Fulmer and her staff have no say over how the county distributes funds. I have to vehemently disagree with you on Ms. Fulmer covering up any goings on, she has always been forthright with my group, allowing us access without delay, and I have seen quite a bit of compassion over the years. I don't know Mr. Mercer, so I can not comment on him.

me too
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me too 08/01/08 - 12:50 pm
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TWright - your comment on

TWright - your comment on Quality of Life vs. Just life is spot on. Why "rescue" an animal to condemn it to a lifetime of loneliness? I still stand by my argument that the focus should be on the irresponsible and negligent pet owners. If it weren't for them, none of us would be needed. Of course I know there is always the true emergency where an individual or family can not continue to care for a pet. But then there are the people who walk into the ACC and say, as they drop of their pet, "we got this dog three years ago, but now he's too big" or "our dog is 10 years old, he's probably going to die soon, so we're going to get a puppy". I've had people call me to take their dog because "the color didn't turn out the way we wanted". Unbelievably, insensitive excuses for "human" beings. These people do not deserve a pet in the first place.

deeplyconcerned
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deeplyconcerned 08/01/08 - 01:17 pm
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TWright and me too make good

TWright and me too make good points! The piece you both are missing, however, is that an active foster and adoption program ensures the quality of life is infinitely better than euthanasia in a county shelter. If organizations only exist to keep them alive in damp dark cages, then I agree with you. However, most of the local rescues I have dealt with have healthy foster programs wherein the pets live in a home with a family until they are adopted. This way, the animal is socialized and the chances of a positive and permanent adoption increase exponentially. Additionally, there are stringent interviews and/or inspections conducted with potential adoptive parents to ensure good fit and safety for the people and pet. No system is perfect, but I see the efforts of the rescues and the lack of same from CCAC as supremely unbalanced. Your point about educating pet owners is one I could not agree more with. However, neglect and cruelty (and yes, it does occur) at CCAC should not be without accountability. Ms. Fulmer talks a good game, but believe me when I say that all is not as it may seem from the outside...

locomotion
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locomotion 08/01/08 - 02:10 pm
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I have experienced trouble

I have experienced trouble with the CCAC. A worker from the agency told me that he would call and let me know before a certain lost dog was euthanized. There were signs posted in our neighborhood about the lost dog and the owner called to retrieve her dog, however she was too late. The CCAC had already killed the sweet dog. Number one, I told the worker that if nobody claimed the dog, I would adopt it. Number two, the owner called a few days later to get her dog. My point is, this dog should not have been killed. At least two people would have taken him. The CCAC should be ashamed!

TCB22
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TCB22 08/01/08 - 02:16 pm
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I for one do not believe you

I for one do not believe you "deeplyconcerned" when you sling around neglect and cruelty charges against the animal control staff. You should be ashamed and at least plaster your real name on here if you are going to make such charges against the fine people at the shelter. If this is a good example of how Heartsong and Happy Tails people are, I feel sorry for the animals in their care. If you truly believe the charges, put your name out here with the specific facts of your charges and stand by it so it can be addressed. It is becoming clearer what Tom Mercer meant when he said in the article that you people are becoming unbearable.

TCB22
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TCB22 08/01/08 - 02:18 pm
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locomotion, don't you feel

locomotion, don't you feel guilty for leaving that sweet dog there when you could have saved it? You say at least two people would have taken him, yet none did. That says it all. You should be ashamed.

locomotion
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locomotion 08/01/08 - 02:35 pm
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TCB22, Before you try to

TCB22, Before you try to crucify someone, maybe you should ask yourself if you have all of the facts. I happened to be going out of town and could not take the dog with me. I called the worker to pick him up because I did not want the dog to get run over in the streets. The worker assured me that nothing would be done to the dog before we got back. So do I feel guily for calling the CCAC? No, I did the only thing that I knew of at the time. Why are you so ugly to people anyway? You are clearly not on this posting for the right reason, which is animal welfare. What is your agenda?

TCB22
652
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TCB22 08/01/08 - 03:07 pm
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My agenda is to look at this

My agenda is to look at this objectively. You couldn't get the dog because you had reasons. The shelter couldn't keep the dog any longer because they had reasons. Have you ever seen how small that shelter is? I say this again. Given enough money, anything is possible. Everyone should speak up and let leaders know that this is where they want their tax dollars to go and to build a huge sanctuary with a huge 24 hour staff. But stop the practice that Heartsong and Happy Tails has of keeping these animals stacked in little cages in secret fostering locations.

deeplyconcerned
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deeplyconcerned 08/01/08 - 04:56 pm
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Well, TCB22, you are good for

Well, TCB22, you are good for a laugh, if nothing else! I think you just solidified the point I was trying to make ealier. For my part, I pray that someone might inject a little subjectivity and compassion into this process. Your solely objective view mirrors those of people like Ms. Fulmer and Mr. Mercer. No matter how much pleading there is for some caring, the only retort these county "leaders" have is to whine about funds. We as general public are not naive about budgets and so forth. I would never hold someone accountable for that over which they had no control. But the behaviors, attitudes, and distrust COULD be changed if people could perhaps inject a little bit of heart into all that objectivity. Maybe that's asking too much? As for your disparaging comment about foster homes...my family and I have fostered animals several times. They live with us, are loved, cared for and eventually adopted to wonderful permanent homes. It is very hard for my children and me to let them go, but it is rewarding and a great experience for us. We can make a difference in some small way. Please do not try to take that away from us. These rescues are doing it right.

TCB22
652
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TCB22 08/01/08 - 05:18 pm
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Your self-righteousness is

Your self-righteousness is delusional. While I am sure you are hopeful that some who read this will believe your "nobody cares about animals but me" act, remember that funds ARE an issue for many who cannot even afford the basics. Don't fool yourself about that. We ALL love animals. But how much would you say we should spend to save all of them? What is your financial limit, if any?

fishwife9
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fishwife9 08/01/08 - 07:01 pm
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I don't have any experience

I don't have any experience with Columbia County because I live and work with rescue in another county; however, I do have experience with Happy Tails and Heartsong and they do not keep animals stacked in little cages. My county does not do everything perfectly but they do keep adoptable animals much longer before they are put to sleep. Shame on you Columbia County. You boast schools and quality of life. Why can't you spend more money to build a larger shelter to accomodate the growing community?

Aceman
111
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Aceman 08/02/08 - 09:06 am
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I think it is very telling

I think it is very telling that the groups that are contracted with the county refused to reveal the location of foster homes or allow inspection of those homes. Why is this? If they have nothing to hide and the care they provide is so flawless then why would they refuse to even divulge where the homes are located? Could they be hiding something?

deeplyconcerned
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deeplyconcerned 08/02/08 - 06:54 pm
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Ok Aceman, let me get this

Ok Aceman, let me get this straight...I offer to give a pet a good home for a time until it is adopted into a permanent home; my home and family are inspected and interviewed respectively by the state-licensed animal rescue organization; I sign a contract on care of the animal, etc. I give the animal a nice family-environment in which to wait for their adoption time...and then YOU want me to render myself subject to the whims and scrutiny of people (CCAC) that I wouldn't trust any further than I could throw them to invade my privacy and make decisions about my ability to foster. Do I have this correct?
Next - with all the whining about lack of county funds, you want to expend more of the funds that should be going to animal care to be used to send county employees out to inspect my premises and decide if I should be allowed to foster. Doesn't this seem backwards?
Further, just because the final draft of a contract between rescue groups and CCAC came to a decision to remove the clause concerning the inspection of foster care homes, does not mean the organizations are "hiding" anything. Ms Tucker's claims in the Metro Spirit are to sidetrack the public from the real issues.

deeplyconcerned
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deeplyconcerned 08/02/08 - 06:57 pm
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And to TCB22 - In all

And to TCB22 - In all honesty, you may be correct in your diagnosis of me being somewhat delusional. It is my full intention, however, to hang on to a few of these 'delusional' ideals for if I were to become solely and completely objective, as you suggest, then I would lose my hope for a better world and a better community. I would become an angry, bitter little person who views the world with nothing but cynicism....rather like yourself.

Aceman
111
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Aceman 08/02/08 - 07:57 pm
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Are you deeply concerned or

Are you deeply concerned or deeply disturbed? We're not talking about the Foster Home Nazis here just the ability for CCAC to make sure the animals are not going to a little house of horrors. I think they have every right to do that and I would expect them to. How do they know the 20 animals that each group can get at one time aren't going to be stacked in crates on top of the last 20 that they got? They don't know without the ability to verify the conditions. Just because someone is licensed by the state doesn't mean that conditions don't deteriorate after the inspector leaves.The county is doing these groups a favor by not charging them after the county spends taxpayer money to respond to a call of a stray, impound the stray, transport the stray to the shelter, feed and house the stray for several days and they are then supposed to turn them over 20 at a time and not even know where they are going? Do you see my point? And if you are indicative of what CCAC has to put up with when they deal with rescue people then I can see why Tom Mercer is fed up with them because I wouldn't put up with your attitude for more than five minutes. You should be thanking them not criticizing.

deeplyconcerned
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deeplyconcerned 08/03/08 - 11:39 am
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No, Aceman - I will thank

No, Aceman - I will thank you. For allowing anyone who reads this board to really get a glimpse of what the attitude of those who defend evil at the CCAC and within the ranks of county leadership is like. Well done, friend.

Aceman
111
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Aceman 08/03/08 - 12:20 pm
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Your response doesn't address

Your response doesn't address any of the issues raised (surprise). If you could have things completely your way what would you want? And I am not defending anyone, just expressing the way I think things should be.

deeplyconcerned
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deeplyconcerned 08/05/08 - 02:08 pm
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Mr. Aceman, there is a

Mr. Aceman, there is a concept you must learn...the first ammendment to the constitution allows citizens of this country to question, raise issues and validate the activities of their governing entities. That means the CCAC, as a governmentally-funded structure, is subject to this type of scrutiny. It is not so with a private enterprise. There are regulatory vehicles in place to ensure non-profit operations do things right. But the yahoos that lead this county are not those vehicles. The rescues answer to the proper authorities. The CCAC must do the same. Their authority is US - the citizens of their constituency. As for your concern about where the animals go after being rescued from CCAC...they go to very good, loving homes like mine...a fate infinitely better than the 'concentration camp-like' treatment received at CCAC (you drew the parallel...now you must deal with it). Con't...

deeplyconcerned
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deeplyconcerned 08/05/08 - 02:26 pm
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Con't...Please remember -

Con't...Please remember - these are non-profit rescues. They are run by volunteers. What's in it for them if not better lives for the animals? There is certainly no monetary or any other type of compensation apart from the intangible blessings of doing good. You must realize that for people to become this empassioned about something that is completely selfless MUST have some substance. When was the last time Ms. Fulmer refused her paycheck from the county or volunteered her time simply because she wanted to do something good for the animals in her care? You are trying to compare apples to oranges in your accountability proposition. It doesn't hold water. As I said before, things at CCAC are not as Ms. Fulmer and Mr. Mercer would like us all to believe. Until someone in authority has the backbone to deal with that, there can be no trust. How sad that is. The person who eventually does stand up and handle this will be a political hero to the county...but these elected officials apparently are not even smart enough to see that. So what motivation WILL cause action I wonder?

another day
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another day 08/06/08 - 11:07 am
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The responsibility is the

The responsibility is the owner’s, the shelters & rescues pick up their slack. Stop bashing each other & accept it - we want to save all animals, but it's impossible, if it weren't there wouldn't be a need for shelters or rescues. While the rescues are bashing the shelter, has anyone checked out the foster homes? How many animals are in the homes, too many sometimes. How many animals have been fostered for years now? & No kill shelters? Just like TWright987 said, is this a quality of life? How miserable to look into their eyes! At this point everyone's exhausted & frustrated & wanting to point fingers. Why are rescues taking in dogs from the shelter when I have seen people that have found a stray be turned away, to have to go to the shelter! Why go to other counties to get animals when we have our own problems! It’s almost like jobs being outsourced, us sending food to other countries when we have hunger, us taking care of the sick in Africa when we have our own. I’m not knocking what we do for others; just take of your own 1st before you try to fix others problems just to look good & be able to brag about doing it. do what u can but don't knock others for doing what they can.

Aceman
111
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Aceman 08/09/08 - 08:33 am
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Your hatred of county

Your hatred of county officials is obvious. It is also obvious that you have to have things your way. Have you ever heard the sayings "kill them with kindness" or "you can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar"? The earth revolves around the sun, not you. Have you ever considered that CCAC's mission is different from yours? They are not rescue. They cannot turn away strays. They have to take everything that comes their way, including the undesirable, unadoptable, vicious and sick animals. What are they supposed to do, start stacking animals in crates up to the ceiling? I think not. You have to be realistic DC. Work within the system and quit being so critical and unpleasant. Every post you make reinforces my observation that you are one of those people that Tom Mercer is tired of dealing with. And consider this: in the 2 cat hording cases that CCAC encountered recently, one being the one in Springlakes and the other by the county jail, each of those people said the same thing: that they started out trying to help the cats and things just got out of control. When they became overwhelmed they didn't know where to turn to and the problem just got worse.

Aceman
111
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Aceman 08/09/08 - 08:43 am
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This is why oversight of

This is why oversight of rescue groups are needed. Which brings to mind another old saying: "the road to hell is paved with good intentions". I don't doubt that you have the best of intentions but sometimes a person's drive to save the animals can lead to hording and conditions that are undersireable for the animal. This can happen to the most well intended people and requires third party oversight for the good of the animals. I know you are not going to agree with that but that's because you are such an angry and "my way or the highway" type of person.

TheVirusOfLife
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TheVirusOfLife 08/16/08 - 12:55 pm
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DeeplyConcerned - who are you

DeeplyConcerned - who are you to point fingers at the employees of CCAC, saying that they are abusive to the animals housed there? Ive noticed a very SMALL handful of people that actually understand the concept of animal CONTROL. The fact remains that there simply are not enough responisble homes in the world for every stray animal. Sure, you may offer to spay/neuter these animals before they are adopted out, but that is not ensuring that these people are not allowing their new adopted pets to run at large, running the risk of biting someone or getting hit by a car. There is obviously no arguing with you to open that closed little mind of yours, and arguing isnt my intent. I just find it very bold of you to call the employees there abusive. I, personally, am an animal lover, but I know that you cant save them all. If your sole purpose in life is the crusify those that do what needs to be done, you are filled with hate. I can understand the love for animals, but you have no love in your heart for humans. And that makes you a miserable and intolerable person. I know you want to spread the word of hate toward CCAC, and thats simply because misery enjoys company.

TakeAstand
13
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TakeAstand 08/16/08 - 02:49 pm
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peony I was thinking the same

peony I was thinking the same thing. They need to spay and neuter some of the irresponsible non working baby makers like they do the animals!!!

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