— Evelyn Nelson, owner of Sandie’s Pets in Toccoa, is under investigation by the Georgia Department of Agriculture, and her store is closed.

Mary Greene, head of the agriculture department’s animal protection division in Atlanta, met with Toccoa City Marshal Ken Cox on Friday to discuss revoking Nelson’s license to sell animals in Georgia.

Nelson, who lives in Westminster, S.C., is reported to have falsified information on her renewal application for a state license.

On the application, Nelson checked “no” in response to a question regarding whether she ever had been convicted of a crime related to animals.

“Greene told me it would take at least a month for the entire process to go through,” Cox said. “After that, Ms. Nelson will have 30 days to appeal the decision.”

The falsified information was brought to light by a reporter from an Atlanta TV station. The reporter showed Nelson’s 2007 application to Vanessa Sims-Green, who supervises animal inspections at breeding operations and pet stores.

Sims-Green said she was unaware of Nelson’s convictions in South Carolina.

Nelson has been convicted twice in Oconee County, S.C., of animal mistreatment. The first time was in 2005, and the second was last year.

Oconee County animal control authorities found more than 200 animals, including dogs, cats and birds in filthy conditions in 2004 in Nelson’s home. Some of the animals were dead in their cages.

At that time, Nelson was ordered to pay more than $7,000 worth of court fines and veterinary bills and sentenced to 30 days in the county jail.

She was found guilty in October 2007 of neglect. Fourteen dogs were found living in filthy conditions, and most of the dogs were sick. The judge fined Nelson $1,087 at that time and warned that Nelson would face imprisonment if convicted a third time.

Recently, a consumer who purchased a Chihuahua puppy from Sandie’s Pets said the puppy died of parvovirus within days after he bought it.

Casey Coffee is a Georgia State Trooper who lives in Toccoa. He and his wife purchased the puppy from Sandie’s Pets several weeks ago.

“Within a week, the puppy was throwing up and very sick,” Coffee said. “We took it to Cornelia Animal Hospital, and the vet confirmed it had parvo.”

Coffee took the vet bill and his complaint to Nelson at Sandie’s Pets.

“She wrote me a check for $300, but then stopped payment on it,” Coffee said. “So Friday, I went back with the city marshal, and (Nelson) gave me back my money in cash.”

“Parvo is a highly contagious disease in dogs. I’m very concerned that if there’s parvovirus in her store, it could be spread to other dogs outside the store if a consumer touches one of her puppies that’s infected,” Cox said.

Green-Sims inspected the store Friday and issued a quarantine of the dogs for 14 days. She also cited Nelson for improper record keeping but would not close Sandie’s Pets.

“They said that doesn’t fall under their jurisdiction,” Cox said. “It’s just business as usual for them. Once again, they refuse to act.”

That angered Toccoa City Manager Billy Morse, and he issued an order for Cox to close Sandie’s Pets for 14 days.

“I would prefer for the Georgia Department of Agriculture to shut her down with regard to this parvo issue,” Morse said. “I’m really disappointed that the state is not going to do it, and I believe they’re shirking their responsibility.”

If the agriculture department follows through with revoking Nelson’s license, however, she could be out of business for good in Georgia.

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