I made the three hour drive to Savannah, Georgia in mid-June with a good friend to retrieve a Pomeranian she wanted to “adopt,” aka purchase, from Georgia Animal Rescue and Defence (sic) Inc (GARD).
I was along for two reasons: to see if I could make the trip following spine surgery and to act as a witness for my friend. She’ll write her own story and provide videos and photos when she’s ready but I knew she was getting a male Pomeranian Amy Clark Carter called a “problem dog.” The dog had not been seen by a vet, had no vaccinations (not even rabies) no heart worm testing or preventative treatment—nothing whatsoever. Because the dog was in the same condition in which GARD got him, my friend purchased him for $100 rather than the $350 they were asking for other Pomeranians. The dog hadn’t even been named by GARD and I saw no records at all on this dog because my friend wasn’t provided any records whatsoever.
While healing from the aforementioned spine surgery I was following Lancaster County SC’s March 2020 seizure of 26 starved and half-dead Siberian Huskies plus one cat from a hellacious situation. At around the same time GARD announced they’d taken in 200—yes, two hundred—Pomeranians. Some GARD Facebook posts said it was a breeder/puppy mill bust, other posts claimed a hoarding situation. My friend, a Pomeranian person, shared that story with me and I followed it from a distance.
My friend got her first GARD Pomeranian in late April I believe. The dog’s condition was hardly what one would expect from a reputable rescue and my friend would know. She ran a breed-specific dog rescue for a decade and has firsthand experience with the rescue world so she knew suspicious behavior when she saw it. She kept in contact with Amy Clark Carter via Facebook Messenger for weeks after getting the first GARD Pomeranian.
I’d submitted an application to GARD in early March at 10:00pm. I was approved a little over two hours later, at 12:39 am. They couldn’t possibly have checked references or called my veterinarian so late on a Friday night but I was approved anyway.
Two thirds of the way to Savannah my friend got a Facebook message from Amy Clark Carter saying they hadn’t loaded the dog for which we were making the trip but she’d try to get someone to bring him.
The address we were directed to, which was given only to approved adopters, turned out to be a debt collection agency. I knew GARD does most of their sale (they call it “adoption”) events at the Pooler, GA Petsmart but due to COVID Petsmart had cancelled the weekly GARD event. But a debt collection agency parking lot?
Later I learned that the debt collection agency’s CEO and perhaps owner (I’ve yet to confirm who owns it) Phillip Rutherford is Joy Bohannon’s husband. Makes sense but still, why not at GARD’s physical location? 07/27/2020 See end of post.
When Amy Clark Carter arrived at the parking lot she didn’t have my friend’s dog with her so we waited a bit. Joy Bohannon arrived shortly thereafter. She’s not a pleasant woman. Frankly she set off every one of my internal alarms. It was her attitude I think. She didn’t give a crap about anything or anyone there. Hardly a crime to be a jerk but inauspicious.
Once Joy arrived Amy told us to go to GARD’s property at 100 Dichoric Dragon Drive in Pembroke GA to get my friend’s dog, but only after my friend paid the $100 by debit card and Amy called ahead to tell someone we were coming. My friend requested a detailed receipt but was refused. We knew Joy Bohannon tries very hard to keep people away from the property so we readily agreed, not only to get the dog but see for ourselves what was what.
Before leaving for Pembroke and due to the condition of the dogs in the parking lot I decided to get one. I told Amy that I’d already been approved. Joy looked up my application on her phone but again, no call to my vet or any other reference. Amy said all the dogs at the debt collection agency were already taken. I then asked if I could look at the dogs on the GARD property since we were going there anyway. She told me, “the dogs there aren’t ready for adoption.” When I asked why not, she said they hadn’t been vetted yet. Oh I wish I’d been videoing then! She said if adopters didn’t show up for their dog by two pm I could get one of those.
The property is rural and hidden behind some woods, not uncommon in coastal Georgia. When we parked and left the car I was bowled over by the stench. I have a strong stomach and my gag reflex isn’t easily triggered but each was offended at the smell. It wasn’t dog feces. It was rotting meat and overwhelming.
One cannot get through the gate to the kennels or what I think is Joy Bohannon’s residence without a key to the gate lock, but what I saw from the gate was appalling. Very small outdoor “kennels” with dirty dogs, some “kennels” with two dogs visible in an approximately 6’x6’ “kennel,” a fenced area with multiple dog houses beneath a tarp draped on a frame. All of the animals were out in the heat.
Perhaps Joy just enjoys growing large outdoor plants and the fact that the plants make most of the kennel areas difficult to see clearly from that gate is happenstance. The foliage struck me as suspicious when combined with the foul odor.
For months I’d been reading GARD’s Facebook posts claiming they are staffed by unpaid volunteers doing all the cleaning, paperwork, etc. One of those “volunteers” who, it turns out is a paid employee, had my friend’s dog crated in the back of a parked van. No water and no idea how long the dog had been there.
While my friend transferred her dog to her own crate I did my best to continue surreptitiously videoing what I saw. I didn’t catch everything but I caught a lot. Unfortunately video cannot communicate odor.
The employee, Chuckie, told us that there were in fact several dogs left at the debt collection agency so I could go back and select one. On the 15 minute drive back to the debt collection agency the smell of my friend’s dog was quite pungent.
On our return to the parking lot we found three Pomeranians and another unidentified small dog remaining. I took video of the remaining Pomeranians, two of which I named Blondie (pale tan) and Finn (red). Tough decision but Finn seemed much less wary so I selected him. You can see Finn and Blondie together in one crate in the second half of this video.
I watched in astonishment as Amy proceeded to insert a microchip right in the parking lot. Why wasn’t that done at the vet, or prior to the event? My friend’s dog wasn’t microchipped at all. Amy gave her the microchip in the packaging and told my friend to have her vet insert it.
Once Finn was on the floorboard between my feet the smell of the two dogs was so eye-watering we drove home with the windows open. Finn was shaking the entire trip but I expected him to be frightened. I didn’t expect him to be matted to the skin on his neck, back, stomach and hindquarters. GARD had him since January and he looked like he’d just survived being caught in a tornado.
I failed to scrutinize Finn’s GARD paperwork while in the parking lot so I didn’t realize there was nothing about a heart worm test. I sent a Facebook Message requesting the results but was never answered. Several days after returning home I called the veterinarian who neutered Finn to ask them to fax my veterinarian the test results. Bryan Woods, whom I later learned is married to veterinarian Michele Tremmell-Woods, returned my call and told me dogs aren’t tested for heart worms before age four years. I know for a fact that’s lunacy, especially in the mosquito-infested Savannah region, but he insisted. Finn was never tested for heart worms while in GARD’s possession and was not on a preventative. Thank heavens he was negative.
Within sixteen hours Finn wasn’t frightened. He was absolutely terrified of everyone and everything. Despite every effort to ease his transition he cowered in a corner when he wasn’t cowering in the crate. He wouldn’t go outside on his own and when I tried to lift him, he urinated and defecated. He refused to react to any kind of food—not even hot dogs, which I generally don’t give to dogs—or other inducement. He cringed and bolted when I came within five feet of him, and would eat only when alone.
Compare that with the way he behaved in the above video. I’m convinced Finn was drugged at the event. It’s the only explanation for the extreme change in his behavior in less than 16 hours.
Neither my friend nor I were willing to let Finn return to the cesspool from which he came. My friend has long experience working with severe canine behavioral issues so she offered to take Finn to her home and work with him.
Now, five weeks after the Savannah trip, Finn is still cowering, defecating/urinating when lifted, etc. despite intensive daily work. Finn wants nothing to do with my friend’s other Pomeranians. Nothing she’s tried has had any effect and we’ve concluded he’ll require prescription canine psychotropics to help him overcome whatever has happened to him, but one would’ve never known that at the event.
I started seriously researching GARD and have found some very troubling information that reinforces my opinion of GARD’s physical location and personnel. I decided to start a Facebook page to document what I was learning about GARD. Within days of creating that page Facebook deleted both the page and the account because someone—gee, wonder who that might be?—had reported my page, and the reason why wasn’t mentioned. The automated Facebook message said that due to COVID-19 my review request probably wouldn’t be acted upon.
At that point I purchased the URL and server space to create this site.
My goal is to get GARD shut down and every animal at GARD into real rescues. The more I learn the angrier and more appalled I become.
07/27/2020: I really need a dramatis personae for this bunch. It’s not Joy’s husband who is CEO of the collection agency. It’s Amy Carter Clark’s husband, Christopher Noah Carter. He was/is the owner of an entity called Auditmed. Based on what I’ve located, he may have sold it and the name changed to Collectron, of which he was/is CFO, President and Secretary. The sequence has yet to be nailed down but the collection agency we went to was Collectron at 119 Southern Blvd Savannah GA.
Point is, I’ve yet to locate an employer for Phillip Rutherford other than GARD. Mea maxima culpa.