Susan Fischer and her family are scrambling to find a way to save what she calls “her family’s mission.”
The Fischers have until Saturday to either comply with zoning regulations or move Fischer Farm Pet Rescue to another location, a solution that will cost the family thousands of dollars.
“We were planning on moving, but not like this,” Fischer said. “It’s hard coming up with first and last months’ rent, plus a deposit and fencing for the new home. And to do it a week after Christmas, that’s tough.”
The problems began when the Fischers were told the property they use for their rescue farm is zoned R-80, or residential. The 7-acre site is not zoned for the numerous dogs, cats, horses, ponies, ducks, goats and more. In October, 15 goats escaped from the Fischer property. Animal control was called, and the Fischers were told the property was not properly zoned.
Cherokee County Manager Jerry Cooper said that James Brock, the property owner, has applied to have the property rezoned as agriculture but has said he told Fischer he wants her to move by Jan. 17.
However, if the request is approved and Fischer continued to live on the property, the new zoning would allow Fischer only to keep her livestock, which include horses, chickens and 14 goats. In order to keep her 80 dogs, she would have to be classified as a kennel, which requires licensing through the state Department of Agriculture.
Fischer must be in compliance before the planning commission and hearings Jan. 3 and 17 respectively, Cooper said.
“While I admire anyone who wishes to rescue animals, doing so in an R-80 zoned property is inappropriate,” Cooper said in an email to Canton-Sixes Patch.
Cooper said Fischer received her first warning Oct. 20, when a county marshal went to her home on East Cherokee Drive to find 70 dogs, 15 goats, chickens and a couple of horses.
The marshal gave Fischer a warning, and when he returned Oct. 25, he gave her a notice of violation with 30 days to come into compliance with the county’s zoning ordinance. On Nov. 25, he returned to the property and issued Fischer a 30-day extension because she told him she was in the process of having the property rezoned.
“The County has given the occupant ample opportunities to address the notice of violation requiring the occupant’s compliance by Dec. 31,” Cooper said. “If the occupant is not in compliance by (then), the County Marshal’s Office will consider all facts and make a determination as to what additional actions, if any, will be taken prior to the Jan. 17 hearing date.”
Now, the family is rushing to adopt out, sell or find homes for as many of the animals as possible.
“We’ve moved a lot of the animals, and we’ve found a home,” Fischer said. “It’s tough, though, to prepare this fast. “
The Fischers are used to finding new homes. Fischer and her husband have adopted 10 children from ages 3 to 17, and it was the children’s idea to begin rescuing dogs and other animals.
“The kids wanted to give orphaned dogs a second chance like the one they’ve been given,” Fischer said. “This is their passion.”
It’s the kids who go with Fischer on Saturdays to a local PetSmart to help adopt out the dogs and who help groom, train and care for the dogs.
“I’m pretty sure I’ve got a future groomer, veterinarian and dog whisperer,” Fischer said.
With just a week to go, the Fischers are working hard to prepare for the likely move.
Fischer said people from all over the state offered to help move animals, set up the new kennel and more.
“These people, a lot of them are rescue owners. They know the good work we do, and they want to help us continue.”
Anyone interested in adopting a dog or helping the rescue farm can call Fischer at 678-488-7269.
Joe Schulman contributed to this article.