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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TakeAstand
13
Points
TakeAstand 08/16/08 - 01:54 pm
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you dont pick and choose

you dont pick and choose those you like..... but yet you only save those of a certain breed? Which breed would that be may I ask? So other breeds aren't worth you saving, but yet becuase other places may pick and choose, especially if they do not want the burden of dogs with vicious reps, they are bad but you are great????? That makes no sense to me!!

TheVirusOfLife
0
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TheVirusOfLife 08/16/08 - 06:37 pm
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TakeAstand - There are many,

TakeAstand - There are many, many breed specific rescue groups. I agree with you that if you are willing to go above and beyond for one breed, you should have just as much compassion for another. But honestly, many people that like a specific breed do not care for the others. I have my favorites, but I do not always agree with people that only look to rescue puppies or only Shih Tzus, or anything like that. If you go to a shelter to rescue a dog or cat, rescue any one deserving life. Not just one that fits a certain standard. But like I said, there are MANY of these groups. While I may respect their fight to save the breed, I feel that any life deserves to be saved. And honestly, I have seen a few stories here lately about people saying they have dropped animals off at the shelter and would have taken the animal home if it were going to be euthanized. Well, you should have taken it home with you in the first place. That may sound mean, but the fact remains if you wanted the dog or cat - you were better off keeping it with you rather than dropping it off at a shelter. Dont rely on animal shelters to act like a boarding facility. Sorry, Im a realist, not an idealist.

TakeAstand
13
Points
TakeAstand 08/16/08 - 09:10 pm
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I totally agree

I totally agree TheVirusOfLife, and I understand the breed specific groups. I just thought it was a little hypocritical for meetoo to snot a comment about the other 2 groups picking and chosing who they save, but yet she says they save all related to their breed, thats still a type of picking and choosing to me so no need to throw a stone at the other groups. We should all just be glad there are some caring souls out there trying to save lives, any lives.

Aceman
111
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Aceman 08/17/08 - 07:52 am
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Just as I thought,

Just as I thought, deeplyconcerned can't present a logical rebuttal so she offers no response at all. All she can do is criticize and spread hate.

TheVirusOfLife
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TheVirusOfLife 08/17/08 - 12:21 pm
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Aceman, there is no logical

Aceman, there is no logical rebuttal when all you seek to do is attempt to ruin the lives of others. Whether she intends to or not, telling the general public that CCAC employees enjoy euthanizing and abuse the animals there Im sure deeply affects their lives. I felt sorry for the young lady in the euthanasia story not too long ago. Reading some of the comments that others posted made me feel even worse. I doubt on any level did the young lady think "this is the best part of my job."

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