Breaking news: Massive animal neglect case in Georgia

By on April 14, 2017 with 27 Comments By Wayne Pacelle

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.

Animal Rescue and Care

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  1. Dori Butterick says:

    how sad we need to change the laws it needs to be a felony in every state this is heart wrenching that these animals had to suffer at the hands of humans

  2. Diana says:

    Thank you HSUS and all of the various rescue agencies for helping these poor souls.
    Now what I would love to see is the names AND photos of the perpetrators of such crimes splashed all over the news and internet.
    While I am all in favor of privacy one loses that right when they commit such acts of cruelty.

  3. Laura says:

    With all of your funding and generous salaries, what are you doing to actually get puppy mills outlawed and shut down permanently? You say, “why should HSUS have to pay for the care?” (of these rescued dogs). Of course the perpetrators should be hugely fined into the Stone Age and serve time, but HSUS should not be so preoccupied with the money, only with the dogs. You need to END puppy mills, then these raids will no longer be needed. Why are puppy mills allowed to continue existing? They should have been ended way back when they first sprang up. PLEASE, get going on legislation to put them out of business…all of them. There’s the way to spend money wisely. And please do not use “reputable breeders” as a counterpoint to the bad guys; all pet breeders should be known for the cruel exploiters they are. NO ONE needs even one dog breeder in existence, without them we’d still have more dogs than everyone can properly care for. Please do what’s right for each of those poor dogs, never mind the money.

    • Jacqueline says:

      I am proud to be a supporter of the HSUS. The depth of their commitment to animals and the broad range of animal welfare issues with which they deal is impressive. However, they cannot single-handedly end puppy mills or push through any other legislation. The lobbying powers on Capitol Hill that fight against animal welfare or at least don’t allow it to progress are rich, large, and powerful and include corporations as well as individuals. This is true of so many issues of critical importance from puppy mills to the horrors of factory (industrialized) farming to many other forms of animal abuse. For example, many state governments, currently North Carolina, work to implement tough ag-gag laws that prevent the investigation of factory “industrial” farms which are filthy torture chambers. Animals shouldn’t suffer like this when they are providing humans with food and humans shouldn’t be eating food coming from such filth. The HSUS works long and hard on issues such as this, but they can’t do it alone! You, me, “we the people” must also be politically engaged: write letters, make phone calls, attend a Humane Lobby Day at your state house, and “fight” for animal welfare legislation in our towns and cities. HSUS is incredible for all they have accomplished and they oversee an extensive network of regional, state, and district employees and volunteers who are constantly working to make the lives of animals better. They should be celebrated not berated. Their money is very well spent – and sadly animal abuse is about far more than dog abuse. HSUS has had many successes and continues to work hard on so many fronts with money carefully and well spent.

    • Francine Dinatale says:

      Laura getting legislation passed starts with us the taxpayers, the people who live in areas that need this change. It’s up to you to help, get the sign atures talk to your lawmakers! The HSUS has never put money before helping animals all they were saying was it’s about time it came out of the pockets of the perpetrators! You seem to miss the point… We the people who send in donations, volunteer our time are the people footing the bill not the criminals.

    • MK Brittian says:

      you are so right about puppy mills. I lived near a lady who constantly kept dogs to turn out puppies for money. I called every authority of dog care and got no where. laws are not enforced and not enough people think it’s a problem. I think the vets look at more dogs and cats, more money people spend with them. it is sad. the south is worse I’ve ever seen. at least the,SPCA in the north would take care of these problems. Kate Brittian

      • Rhonda says:

        It’s sad but all those agencies can only do what the laws allow them to do. I’ve been involved in rescue for years and I’ve actually known people who talked about stealing the dogs to save them because the laws do not allow the agencies to step in until it gets critical like this. And sadly most puppy mills know the laws and do the bare minimum not to be charged. It’s not the agencies but the laws that need changed. And that requires all of us. The agencies can’t do it alone. They work night and day trying to save every single animal possible. As for the north and south. They are equally bad but the biggest puppy mill is actually in the north. I’m in the south and many times I know of times dogs from the north are transported here because they are so full at their agencies. I know of a lot of rescues around here that work with no pay trying to save just 1 dog that needs help. For instance I saw a lady on Facebook yardsale trying to give a young tiny dog away but the dog obviously had major eye problems. I could tell by the pictures that the dog was very close to losing his eyes. I begged her not to give him away and let me find a rescue that could come get him and get him immediate help. And the rescue went immediately to get the dog and get it to the vet they use. That was with no donations for vet care or anything. Because they care so much money is the last thing on their mind. But of course money is important because vets and medicine is not free. I personally think every single person who gives so much of themselves to save animals is an angel. But again they can only do what the law says they can.

  4. Kathryn Soave-Bailey says:

    Anyone that commits such atrocities to any animal, let alone 350, should go right to jail! Enough is enough! People need to stop buying puppies from pet shops! Then maybe there would not be a market to support these idiot “breeders”.

  5. Donna Burns says:

    Thank you to all involved to most people they think oh that wasn’t so hard but I’ve been involved with rescues and removals similar to this one and it takes a piece of your soul with every animal you save the images stick with you long after the animals are saved so from the bottom of my soul to yours thank you for this save and many more to come Pass Up 🐾🐾🐾😞💙😿

  6. Pam Moorman says:

    This is so awful. Keep up the good work! I’m so glad you saved so many this time. Let’s get as many shut down as possible!!

  7. Diane Watts says:

    I can hardly believe this when I read it. Who are the people who can do this?
    This is terrifying to read .Don’t we need to look into the bigger problem of who they are, and how did they get that way. They are all somebody’s child.

  8. Charlene says:

    This is heartbreaking. I wish I had a billion dollars to send to you.

  9. Kerstin Henry says:

    Thank you for everything you do!

  10. Laura Rheinstein says:

    What will happen to the 350 animals in Georgia once they are rescued? Could you please tell me the details?

  11. Catherine Hammersley says:

    please inform us when and where animals from this Georgia raid will be available

  12. Cyndy Hahn says:

    Thank you to all the rescuers and support members for the care and quick actions to get help to these animals. Were any arrest made?

  13. Dante Lanzetta says:

    I can’t seem to find anything about the people who committed these crimes, except perhaps by inferring that some individual at least took service of the warrant. Did the police authorities arrest anyone?

  14. Lisa Kuehl says:

    As soon as you can, please tell us if this person/persons were licensed by any entity and if they were selling animals retail or wholesale, legally or illegally. We all have much to learn from situations like these. Had this been a licensed facility, would the intervention still have taken place, or would law enforcement have deferred this to the inspection entity? Too often, that’s what happens – law enforcement won’t touch a puppy mill or roadside zoo if it’s licensed by USDA or state.

  15. Jeannie Scott says:

    It is so hard to believe that there are people in this world who could do such a thing to the poor and trusting animals who have to live in these conditions….If only people who might get overwhelmed and are not being cruel and inhumane on purpose would just call for help …….Thanks for all who are finding and caring for these animals….Your good deeds are amazing and I will continue to support your efforts…..THANK YOU

  16. Daniele Pepin says:

    Thank you Madi Hawkins and all of you in HCACC for the long hours you spent helping these poor creatures. The so called humans who did this are not humane and deserve the full punishment the courts can impose. I hope they get the punishment they deserve. I hope these poor sweet animals get a 2nd chance at a decent life. No creature of God should be living like this. Stray animals live better than these poor little furry ones did. It is shameful. It is high time Puppy Mills were thoroughly investigated. I believe most of them should be SHUT DOWN.

  17. z0rc says:

    The HSUS under Wayne Pacelle s leadership is effecting ground-breaking change for animals demonstrated by a long list of significant accomplishments.

  18. Dana Keefe says:

    You may be familiar with a book about animal hoarding titled: Inside animal Hoarding, The Case of Barbara Erickson and Her 552 Dogs. Copyright 2009. It is shocking. One of the important things it includes is a look at the best possible approaches by the court system to deal with the actions and mental illnesses of these perpetrators.


    When the laws are severe enough to scaare these offenders THEN & ONLY THEN will they staret to take it seriously. They receive a slap on the wrist so WHY SHOULD THEY STOP ABUSING THESE POOR ANIMALS. Even many of those responsible for setting the laws don’t care AHH & THEREIN LIES THE RUB. THEY DON’T CONSIDER THESE ANIMALS WORTHY OF THEIR TIME. WHY DON’T WE PUT THEM IN UNSAFE, FILTHY, DISGUSTING PLACES TO SURVIVE WITH NO WATER, SPACE OR ADEQUATE FOOD. THEN THEY WOULD LISTEN.

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