News 12 at 11 o'clock / Tuesday, March 19, 2013
COLUMBIA COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW) -- Sparks flew at the Columbia County Commission meeting Tuesday night as supporters and critics of CSRA Happy Tails took the podium. The animal rescue has been suspended for a year after violations.
At a rally before the meeting, dozens showed up to support Happy Tails. Many brought their dogs, rescued from Happy Tails, and shared stories about all that Happy Tails has done for the community.
"Whoever had owned them had them staked out on chains out in the wintertime," said Daniel Schubert about his dog. "It was probably about 10 degrees out.
He adopted his dog four years ago from Happy Tails. Happy Tails rescued his dog and a few others and then adopted them out to families like Schubert's, but he says that's not all they've done.
"We have a lot of soldiers that have animals and they'll deploy and come under hardship and the dogs get left sometimes because you can't move them, and so they've taken in," Schubert said.
At 6 p.m., the group then headed for the commission meeting.
"I'm going to share the accomplishments we've made in the last 10 years of our existence in this county just to make sure they are aware of the vast work that we've done," said Happy Tails Founder Barbara Gleitsmann.
The commission meeting didn't come without a conflict with two people standing up to speak against Happy Tails.
"I'm dumbfounded that she is still on this witch hunt because she's the one that has largely stirred all this stuff about this rescue group and it is extremely hurtful and it's unnecessary," said Gleitsmann about the former volunteer who spoke against her.
The former volunteer prepared a presentation and speech for the commission members.
"I know what we do, the people out there know what we do," Gleitsmann said. "I don't want to spend another breath trying to defend myself against someone like that. I'm not gonna do it."
In the end, the commission did not take any action. Commission Chairman Ron Cross says it's a state matter, but that answer didn't satisfy some supporters.
"You have to stand up for things that are wrong and this is wrong. This is totally wrong," said supporter Elaine Vanderlinden. "It's the animals that are gonna suffer. There are gonna be hundreds more killed because they can't rescue."
Gleitsmann says her next step is launching an initiative to see how many pets they can spay or neuter in May and October. She has low-cost clinics signed up and will be holding fundraisers to help pet owners who can't afford it.
As for the future of Happy Tails, Gleitsmann says it's out of her hands and up to the Department of Agriculture at this point. She doesn't know if she will reapply for a license next year.