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UPDATE | Dog owner jailed as rescuers seek to save her neglected dogs penned up in Griffin backyard

The rescue group Georgia Watchdog has until August 14 to place the nine remaining dogs.
Griffin Dogs Rescue

UPDATE July 27, 2015-- The County Manager's office of Spalding County released this statement about the conviction of the dogs' owner. The rescue group Georgia Watchdog (links below) is still seeking to place nine dogs, with a court deadline of August 14th:

Susan Collier, owner of the "Griffin Mud Dogs" was sentenced in Spalding County Magistrate Court yesterday (Jujly 22) to sixty days in the Spalding County Jail for 34 counts of dogs kept in unsanitary conditions.

Ms. Susan Collier, entered a plea of guilty to charges of 34 counts of dogs kept in unsanitary conditions, 15 counts of failure to provide fresh water, 34 counts of more the four animals on her premises. Ms. Collier was sentenced to sixty days in the Spalding County Jail and was fined in excess of $4,000 dollars. All but $353.00 of the fines will be suspended if the remaining animals are placed in the care of a certified rescue group by August 14, 2015 and the animals remaining at the residence are spayed or neutered by August 31, 2015.

"Spalding County takes Animal Care and Control very serious", said Eric Mosley, Assistant County Manager. "The County has worked very hard to resolve this before it was escalated to this judgement in court". Further help is still needed and if anyone is interested in providing a home for one of the many animals please contact the Spalding County Animal Control office at (770) 467-4772.

UPDATE July 17, 2015-- "16 dogs remain to be rescued" from the property, according to a Georgia Watchdog spokesperson. The court deadline of July 22 remains. Georgia Watchdog is updating its on-going rescue efforts on its website, and on its Facebook page.

UPDATE July 13, 2015-- Georgia Watchdog's Le'Shay English said 12 of the 37 dogs have been rescued, so far. Since the property owners are taking responsibility for six of the dogs, that means "19 still remain on the property and will do so until they find rescues and fosters," English said. "Time is running out," referring to the July 22 court deadline.

GRIFFIN, Ga. July 9 2015 (WXIA) – Rescuers intervened Thursday to try to save dozens of dogs, suffering in filthy pens exposed to the elements in a backyard in Griffin.

The 37 dogs are penned up in the woods behind a mobile home about ten miles from downtown Griffin.

Spalding County authorities believe the man and woman who own the dogs and live on the property did not purposely abuse or neglect them, but could face felony charges of cruelty to animals if they don't find good shelter or homes for the dogs by July 22.

The dogs have been "living in utter squalor," said Le'Shay English, the founder of the rescue group Georgia Watchdog.

She inspected the conditions when the owners called her for help. English said she found out the owners had been trying for a year to find someone to help them with their dogs.

English said she was shocked when she saw what the dogs have been enduring.

"They were living in six inches of water, mud and feces. A lot of them are living in barrels [tipped over onto their sides] that have six inches of built-up mud. The dogs were suffering."

English brought in volunteers from across Georgia, from her organization and from several other rescue groups including the Society of Humane Friends, Georgia SPCA, and A Great Danes World, and throughout the day they were treating the dogs and cleaning their pens.

"Our goal is to come in and improve the conditions of the dogs while they are awaiting rescue," English said.

Hounds in Pounds donated supplies for the volunteers and for the dogs, and raised money for the efforts.

Mallory TK Contracting of Griffin donated construction materials to go toward refurbishing the pens.

"We have raised over $2,000 already," for these dogs. "Our goal is to send every dog [to permanent, new homes] with a hundred dollars of funding to go towards the spay and neutering and vet services."

The owners -- some rescuers refer to the owners as dog "hoarders" -- allowed 11Alive News onto their property to see the dogs and speak with the volunteers. They declined to comment on camera, except to say they started with just three or four dogs a couple of years ago and the population grew to where they were having trouble caring for all of them. They were in tears, saying that until now they couldn't find anyone to help them with their dogs.

Spalding County Animal Control ticketed the owners earlier this year for violating county ordinances, such as keeping more than four dogs on residential property of less than two acres.

Assistant County Manager Eric Mosley told 11Alive News that neighbors and others have complained to the county about the smell, and about the inhumane conditions. Mosley said the dogs had not had their shots. He said the county gave the owners a warning, at first, with a checklist of changes that had to take place prior to a July 1 court hearing. Mosley said the owners did not comply by that date.

"We're trying to help them, first," Mosley said, "and help those dogs get out of those conditions and recover."

Mosley said the county animal shelter does not have the capacity or staff to take in the dogs, and may seek to jail the owners on the felony charges if the dogs are not gone from their property prior to a July 22 court hearing.

English said if Spalding County Animal Control had been helping, the dogs would not have been suffering in the conditions in which she found them, on Thursday.

"Clearly, the dogs are suffering. And that has angered a lot of people." The owners, she said "have been doing what they can, they've been trying to reach out for over a year."

One dog had fresh wounds, from fighting another dog in one of the pens Thursday afternoon.

Another dog wagged his tail furiously, lifting his head toward a visitor, seeking affection, clearly enjoying all the attention and care he was receiving that afternoon.

"They're really scared and timid," English said, "but there are a lot of really cute and adoptable ones."

Rescuers are still hoping Spalding County will find room in its shelter for some of the dogs, and they're hoping other shelters in Georgia will make room for some of the dogs -- at least until they can be placed in permanent homes.