The Union Recorder

December 20, 2013

Have a Heart loses prime showcase location

Kyle Collins
The Union-Recorder


Have a Heart, Save a Life spent three years holding weekend showcases in front of what is currently Complete Cash off North Columbia Street.

The Baldwin County based animal rescue group no longer has prime viewing position to adopt out dogs and cats.

HAHSAL founder Valerie Buckley was informed she and volunteers could no longer hold weekend showcases on the busy corner effective this week.

Buckley said the issue started over five months ago with a new local manager.

Kent Popham, CEO of Complete Cash Holdings, LLC. said that has nothing to do with the decision.

“What started the adversarial situation is that our insurance carrier found out about the events going on there and simply made some recommendations. They recommended that we move what (HAHSAL) was doing from the front of the parking lot over to the side,” Popham said. “Valerie Buckley agreed to reposition their events, and thanked us for the opportunity. This agreement was never kept by Have a Heart, Save a Life and they continued to host the pet adoptions with no regard to the agreed upon area.” 

Buckley said HAHSAL followed countless instructions such as not parking in Complete Cash's side lot, using the business's trash can or keeping tables under the organization's van that typically sits in front of the business.

“It was every hurdle, and I said fine we will do it,” Buckley said.

The last episode, according to Buckley, occurred when a manager requested that the HAHSAL van be moved behind Complete Cash during the week and back out front for weekend showcase.

“I never heard anything back until two days ago. The message said you have to vacate the premise by Thursday at close of business day, the van has to be moved and no adoptions,” the HAHSAL founder said.

She said these communications were exchanged via voicemail.

“(HAHSAL) decided to leave the van parked out front of our business all the time. This has been going on for six months,” the Complete Cash CEO said. “We bent over backwards trying to reach some kind of agreement. The last few weeks they have refused to accept our phone calls or negotiate or talk about it, so based on our commitment to safety of our customers we decided it would be best to have their event somewhere else.”

Wednesday delivered more shocking news. 

Complete Cash filed a police report due to a flood of angry HAHSAL supporters making “threatening” calls to the corporate and local office. The organization's van was also towed.

“(Complete Cash) called and told the towing company that they had an abandoned vehicle on their property and towed it,” Buckley said. “I said are you kidding me? They told me I had until Thursday at close of business. I said hell it's not abandoned I was in it yesterday and the day before.”

The van was quickly returned free of charge that day, according to HAHSAL.

Popham said the van was towed at the recommendation of the Milledgeville Police Department. 

“After threatening phone calls made to the management at our location, I decided (Wednesday) it's time to make a police report to let them know what was going on,” Popham said. “The police recommended that if they won't move the van then have it towed.”

Buckley isn't fond of the timing right before Christmas. 

“They clearly don't care what we have done for the last three or four years,” Buckley said. “This is our lifeline. That's where everybody knows us. I was just asking for this last weekend. What's a few more days? People are going to show up Saturday and expect us out there.”

The Complete Cash CEO stands by the decision “due to safety and concerns expressed by our customers.” 

“This may be their biggest time for adoptions, but December is our busiest month of the year. It's just coming to a head right now. I think it's unfortunate it has to come to this after three years trying to accommodate HAHSAL in every way that we could,” Popham said. “Back in the summer, they slandered us on social media and after that we continued to try and support their effort. They have just become completely unreasonable and irrational, so we felt like we had no choice in making this move.”

Adoption days will be held at The Fun!Factory starting this weekend. It's not ideal, but Buckley is thankful for the last minute help.

The devoted animal rescue figure didn't mince words about the situation.

“I'm not trying to start trouble, but boy if you mess with my animals, you start to piss me off,” Buckley said. “They have no clue about the impact that we have made in the community, and now they are dealing with the impact because nobody likes what they have done.”

HAHSAL finds forever homes for displaced dogs, cats, kittens and puppies from the Baldwin County Animal Shelter.  

The shelter is a “kill” facility. Once animals arrive, they have 5 to 7 days to live before being euthanized. 

The organization pulls hundreds of animals from the shelter each year to be adopted or fostered.