On Wednesday, the head of our Animal Crimes unit received an urgent call from authorities in Habersham County, in far northeast Georgia near the South Carolina border, about animals in possible distress at a property there. After receiving a barking complaint, Officer Wayne Higgins of Habersham County Department of Animal Care and Control took a look at the condition of the animals. What he discovered was so jarring that he knew a larger intervention was required. He immediately turned to Madi Hawkins, director of HCACC, and she secured a warrant for the property. In turn, she called our Animal Crimes unit for assistance.
Yesterday morning, HSUS staff members, law enforcement officials, and local humane groups raided the property, pulling more than 350 dogs, cats, and other animals from squalid, deficient conditions there. Donkeys, a horse, bunnies, chickens, ducks, geese, goats, sheep, and an alpaca were also moving around in search of clean water.
Hundreds of dogs had been living in their own waste, with fecal matter covering their bodies. Many were suffering from a variety of skin and eye conditions. The puppies were crammed inside a small building with no ventilation.
Hawkins and several of her officers slept in their vehicles into Thursday morning as authorities made plans for reinforcements to assist with removal of animals from the property. Hawkins wanted to ensure the animals were safe overnight, even allowing a few frightened cats, who sensed a rescuer in their midst, to share her sleeping bag.
As Hawkins watched over the situation, The HSUS Animal Rescue Team revved up its trucks and drove overnight to provide assistance. As dawn threw light onto the scene, with the warrant in hand, our team members worked side by side with Habersham County to bring the animals from crisis into care—with support from Cashier’s Highland Humane Society, RescueBank, Greater Good, Save the Horses, Cornerstone Animal Hospital, Humane Society of North East Georgia, Northeast Veterinary hospital, and PAWS Bryson City. Now, in conjunction with Gwinnett County Animal Welfare and Enforcement and other partner agencies in Georgia, we are removing dogs, one by one, from their cages, and rescuing the other animals from their bleak existence.
Our team is on the ground, constructing an emergency shelter, grooming the animals, giving them nourishment and water, and providing medical attention. We are also documenting events and conditions at the property, which could turn into a crime scene.
This intervention comes a year after lawmakers in Georgia approved “cost of care” legislation that requires perpetrators of neglect and cruelty to pay for the care of animals, rather than have that burden fall on groups like The HSUS. Why should we and other charities have to pay for the reckless actions of others?
The HSUS Animal Rescue Team is on the road too much, raiding too many sites like this one.
We need laws and enforcement to prevent this kind of cruelty. And that’s why we work on both fronts to come to the aid of animals in crisis and also to create a legal framework to avoid this sort of scenario in the first place. We’re also working to educate the broader public about the importance of preventing such situations altogether.