Georgia Shelters still using Gas to euthanize, with Dept of Ag support

It’s hard to believe, but some Georgia shelters still use gas to euthanize groups of dogs. Although new shelters cannot do so, an old shelter with a gas chamber got a “grandfather” exception. In March, this was supposed to be stopped. Gas euthanization is an extremely cruel practice, with dogs panicking and sometimes attacking each other in their last moments. The below is the case file (I removed some of the legal case reference numbers and such for easier reading). See Georgia Legal Professionals for Animals for more details. And I hope you’ll let our Department of Ag Commissioner, Tommy Irvin, know what you think. It is bad enough that we euthanize so many animals. Do they also have to endure terror, pain, and attacks while it is happening? And while our state legislature has been abundantly clear on their feelings, the Department of Ag circumvents them?
I am in shock that Cobb County is doing this. I thought it was only poor, rural counties.

Report on the status of Chesley V. Morton and Jennifer Robinson v. State of Georgia Department of Agriculture and Tommy Irvin, in his Official Capacity as Commissioner, In the Superior Court of Fulton County, State of Georgia, Family Division

On March 26, 2007, the Honorable Cynthia D. Wright executed an interlocutory order. The Order noted that in 1990, the Georgia General Assembly enacted a law that specified that sodium pentobarbital was the exclusive method of euthanasia of dogs and cats in animal shelters, with certain exceptions. The exceptions included shelters in counties of less than 25,000, dangerous animals, and gas chambers in use as of July 1, 1990 provided that the shelter filed their notice of exemption with the Department of Agriculture by August 1, 1990.

The Department of Agriculture is the exclusive agency to inspect and license animal shelters, including insuring compliance with the euthanasia provisions of the law. While the Commissioner contended that the 1990 law was unclear, Judge Wright held that “[t]he legislature could not have been more clear in prohibiting euthanasia using gas chambers for dogs, cats, puppies, and kittens except in very limited circumstances.” The Court also noted that at the hearing “[i]t was abundantly clear…that the Commissioner and the Department employees have virtually ignored the clear statutory mandate.”
On March 26, 2007, after the submission of extensive evidence, the Court ultimately issued an interlocutory injunction “enjoining and restraining the Commissioner of the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Agriculture and employees of the Department of Agriculture from advocating and sanctioning violation of O.C.G.A. §4-11-5.1 by state-licensed animal shelters.”
Current Status of the Case
Both parties engaged in extensive briefing regarding and leading up to the injunction. More importantly, on June 6, 2007, the Plaintiffs filed a Motion for Contempt, claiming that “Defendants have intentionally violated the Court’s Order and attempted by their conduct to circumvent the effect of the Order.”
The Brief in Support of the Motion for Contempt contends that the Cobb County Animal Shelter has been operating a gas chamber in direct violation of the Humane Euthanasia Act for the last twelve years. The Department of Agriculture received complaints about Cobb County Animal Shelter’s allegedly unlawful conduct after the Order was issued.
An April 25, 2007, letter from Leana Stormont of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (“PETA”), asking the Department of Agriculture to “undertake appropriate investigative and enforcement action to ensure swift compliance with the law” is attached to the Brief in Support of the Motion to Compel. John Hennelly, Senior Assistant Attorney General, responded on April 30, 2007, requesting that correspondence be directed to his attention and noting that the Order was “aimed at maintaining the status quo,” and that “the effect of the order is to prohibit, rather than compel, action.” This letter is also attached to the Brief in Support of the Motion for Contempt. Ms. Stormont replied in a May 10, 2007, letter, requesting certain public records related to the Cobb County Animal Control facility and noting that PETA interprets the Order as an “expectation that the Department will take some action in response to violations of which it is made aware” and that it “prohibits the Department from standing idly by and acquiescing when violations are brought to its attention…” The letter is also attached as an exhibit to the Brief in Support of the Motion for Contempt.
On May 25, 2007, the Department of Agriculture sent an inspector to the Cobb County Animal Shelter. The inspector gave the Cobb County Animal Shelter a passing grade for its euthanasia program, and the inspection report did not address the facility’s use of a gas chamber. The Department of Agriculture responded to PETA’s Open Records Act request that afternoon, enclosing the inspection report.
Plaintiffs argue that the Defendants are in violation of the Order and thus, should be found in contempt. They request that the court “fashion a remedy that compels Defendants to follow the Order…and prevents the harm that has been caused by Defendants’ attempts to both violate the Court’s decision and provide a shield for the illegal gassing of dogs and cats occurring in Cobb County on a daily basis.” Brief in Support of Motion for Contempt, p. 6. Plaintiffs seek that the Court “compel Defendants to undertake enforcement activities with respect to the illegal gassing that is ongoing at the Cobb County shelter, and to award Plaintiffs the costs of filing and preparing [the Motion for Contempt].”
Defendants have not yet responded to the Motion for Contempt, nor has the Court issued any ruling.

Evidence at the hearing even showed that Commissioner Irvin personally encouraged shelters to build new gas chambers, which the Court noted was “a clear violation of the law.”

Cobb County’s gas chamber was first purchased in 1995, arguably making its use a violation of the statute, which only allows continued use of a specific gas chamber if it was in use prior to July 1, 1990. Cobb County contends that they were merely continuing use of a gas chamber after moving to a new location, an act it contends is consistent with the law. See Exhibit B to Brief in Support of Motion for Contempt.


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