Three dozen dogs from the largest-ever animal seizure in Habersham County arrived in Gainesville on Wednesday.
Along with the 36 dogs that will eventually be available for adoption, the Humane Society of Northeast Georgia took in five mothers and their puppies from a collection of more than 400 animals seized from a Habersham County property near Clarkesville. The mothers and their puppies will go straight to foster families, while the other dogs will be processed through the adoption system.
The dogs have weeks of care and rehabilitation ahead of them before they’re adoptable or ready for visits, said Julie Edwards, executive director of the Gainesville-based humane society. Edwards recommended people watch the society’s Facebook page to check on when the dogs will become adoptable.
Most of the dogs are small-breed mixes of Yorkshire terrier, Maltese, schnauzer and other breeds. They’re generally free of serious illnesses but require treatment of their fur, skin and teeth.
“Teeth are a huge issue,” said Sam Threadgill, development director of the humane society.
Humane society staff and a few volunteers also need to work with the dogs and get them used to human interaction, Threadgill said.
Madi Hawkins, director of Habersham County Animal Care and Control, said Tuesday that the number of animals had grown well beyond the initial estimate of 360 dogs, cats, birds and livestock.
“We still have some things being born,” Hawkins said on Tuesday. “Prior to any of the recent additions that we have been blessed with, we had 417 (animals), but that was including all of the livestock and the fowl.”
Approximately 20 puppies had been born in addition to the 417 animals already seized.
Hawkins said she couldn’t disclose the name of the woman responsible for the animals until the county decides charges, which will be based on the condition of the animals and the veterinary care they required after being seized.
Most of the animals have been willingly surrendered by their previous owner, Hawkins said, but some have not. Those will be the subject of a cost of care hearing, where Habersham animal control will decide how much money it would take to bring the animals up to normal health. If the owner can pay for it, she can keep the animals, according to Hawkins.
“Owners are required to put up a cash bond for the estimate of the care of the animals that are being held,” she said. “If that cannot be provided, the animals would be forfeited.”
Animal control in Habersham is the lead law enforcement agency involved in the case. The level of neglect will determine the type of charges levied against the owner.
“We’re going to be starting that process today,” Hawkins said Tuesday. “... Our main priority was making sure that these animals’ medical needs were tended to and that we were documenting everything … with their injuries and condition.”
Threadgill, who was one of the Gainesville staff members volunteering in Habersham County, said there was a “night and day” difference between the dogs when they were found last week and when they arrived on Wednesday. Veterinarians and groomers were working 24 hours a day to help clean and shave the many matted dogs — some of which were so severely matted that it caused injuries.
They’re “calmer now,” she said, where before they were “frantic for attention” in the wire crates kept on the property.