CLARKESVILLE — Habersham County Animal Care and Control Director Madi Hawkins says nearly half the animals seized last week from a Habersham County property have found their way to other locations.
“We were up to 435 animals with our most recent count for the total that have been impounded off the property,” Hawkins said Thursday afternoon. “This is including animals which have been born in our care over the past few days.”
As animals have received veterinary screening and clearance, many have been leaving the temporary emergency shelter set up to process and house them on a short-term basis.
More than 50 of those animals were accepted by the Humane Society of Northeast Georgia.
“We have started transferring some of our animals to various rescue groups participating with us on a regular basis, as well as the HSUS [Humane Society of the United States] has begun transportation of animals with their emergency placement partners,” Hawkins said. “We are also working on starting to get the regular vetting set up for the animals that will be staying with the animal shelter for adoptions.”
Officials continue to receive almost constant inquiries about how they can adopt the animals seized by Habersham County Animal Care and Control at the as-yet undisclosed property.
All the livestock and the birds have been adopted, Hawkins said.
Sweet Olive Farms outside Athens is helping out with adoption of the birds.
That leaves a large number of the more than 300 dogs recovered during the investigation.
“We are going to be obtaining probably 50 to 60 of these dogs for adoptions locally, so we’re definitely going to need continued support for their care,” Hawkins said. “A lot of the animals that we have taken on have been senior animals. A lot of them have mammary tumors from excessive breeding, so we’ll definitely be needing donations for their care, as well as supplies.”
Hawkins said the animals will be up for adoption soon, but that will be well publicized in advance. Right now, the temporary emergency shelter is only open to pre-approved personnel. Walk-ups and drive-ups are not allowed because unsolicited visitors tax the volunteers, staff and animals.
“We hope people understand we’re trying to do what’s best for the animals and minimize the stress they are experiencing,” Hawkins said. “We hope people understand we’re trying to provide the best care possible for these animals.”
People who want to contribute to the rescue effort and care of the seized animals soon will have their chance even more.
“Once the larger organizations pull out, we are going to be left relying on our community for the support that we need to continue the care of these animals,” Hawkins said.
Monetary donations are one way the community can pitch in to help the dogs seized from the puppy mill.
“They can come down to the animal shelter,” Hawkins said. “We have staff down there Tuesday through Friday from 10 to noon and 1-5, and Saturday from 10-2. We do take donations in person. We also do snail mail at 555 Monroe St., Unit 20, Clarkesville, GA 30523. And we now have an online payment system where folks can make donations from all over the world to our shelter, and that is at habershampayments.com. You just select the donation link and then you can actually put in there that you would like to specify that this goes for the care of these animals or any kind of equipment we might need in the future.”
A large corporate donation already is helping with care for the animals, but that money will be used quickly because of required care and maintenance of the animals.
“All our donations have been absolutely wonderful from our community and we greatly appreciate them, we’d definitely like to give a big shout out to Fieldale,” Hawkins said. “Fieldale Corp. has given $2,000 in donations to the care of these animals, as well as any kind of resources we’re going to be needing funding wise for continuation of the care of these animals. We are very, very grateful to have the support from organizations like that in our community.”
Hawkins made a point to say that no animals that were in the Habersham County Animal Shelter at the time this case began will be euthanized to make room for the seized dogs.
“I just want everybody to know that there is going to be no euthanization of the animals in my regular care to make room for these guys,” Hawkins said. “That’s not what we’re about over at the animal shelter. We’re about finding homes for everybody, even if they’re not small, fluffy and cute to everyone’s opinion. What we’re going to be doing is slowly kind of trickling these guys in after surgeries, things like that, so we’ll be looking for foster homes for our regular dogs who are in there — trying to find rescues for our regular dogs. Fortunately, a lot of the rescues that we have worked with personally on this effort have also saved the lives of many dogs in our regular shelter as well.”
In addition to caring for an eventually working to adopt out the 50 to 60 dogs it will be handling, the Habersham County Animal Shelter also has learned it will be housing 29 dogs the owner of the property is refusing to surrender. Those dogs already are at the temporary emergency shelter and are segregated from the others.
“There are approximately 30 animals that have not been surrendered to the custody of our agency, and therefore we are not permitted to re-home or rescue any of these animals,” Hawkins said. “They are still under the ownership of the owner of the property, so those animals will have to be held as evidence until court and will not be permitted to return. What we will be doing is a ‘cost of care hearing’. It’s a new law in the state of Georgia which requires property owners who are charged with animal cruelty to put up a cash bond for the estimated care of these animals. Very often, animal shelters all over the place are overburdened with the care and the expense of these animals while we’re waiting for court. We have boarding, we’re taking up a kennel in our area, we’re expending resources that could be spent on the animals in our community on animals which are being held for evidence, so we will be pursuing that as soon as possible as well.”
Hawkins said one Habersham County resource that hasn’t gotten a lot of attention is the staff of the county’s animal control department.
“My staff, in particular, has been overlooked in this whole process,” Hawkins said. “These guys have been here from start to finish. Some of my staff actually logged 77 hours in a row before we were actually able to go home and sleep and shower. They’ve been here every day, all day, and they’re also while assisting with this and while running this investigation in this case, they’re still operating animal control and the animal shelter. That speaks volumes for the staff that I have that they’re able to participate in such a large-scale, high-profile seizure yet still maintain daily operations of animal control.”
Hawkins said donors who prefer to go to the store and purchase items to equip the shelter for care of the seized animals and for its regular population may do so.
“On an ongoing basis and with this, it’s a lot of the same kind of materials,” Hawkins said. “Dog food is always a big deal with us. We have lots of dogs in our care. Puppy food — we rarely get puppy food donations. Cat food, of course — we seem to do better with cat food donations than with dog food for some reason.”
Additionally, the shelter needs cleaning supplies.
“Bleach wipes — you have no idea how excited I get when we get bleach wipes,” Hawkins said. “Any kind of cleaning supplies. The guys love that Mr. Clean stuff for the mops because it’s really hard to get that dog smell out of there.”
Additionally, the shelter can use newspapers for its cages and kennels, puppy pads, office supplies, heating pads and other supplies.
“If you have it, we can probably find a use for it,” Hawkins said of office and cleaning supplies. “Baby food as we start to come into kitten and puppy season — just Gerber Baby Food, the turkey stuff and any kind of meat flavored. We have sick puppies and kittens that come in.”
Another need right now is office/printer paper.
“I’m telling you, we’re blowing through paper like you wouldn’t believe,” Hawkins said.
Donations of supplies are accepted during shelter hours. Outside business hours, supplies may be left in the adoption pavilion at the shelter.