Fulton County Superior Court Judge Cynthia D. Wright ordered the Georgia Department of Agriculture to enforce the 1990 Georgia Humane Euthanasia Act which with few exceptions bans the use of carbon monoxide gas chambers to euthanize animals.
The ruling was the result of a motion for a preliminary injunction in a lawsuit brought against the Department and its Commissioner Tommy Irvin, whom the judge noted had violated the law by permitting shelters, with “a wink and a nod,” to gas animals to death for the past 17 years.
“We have an elected official, not a judge, who has clearly been told by the General Assembly, ‘This is what needs to happen,’ and has ignored what the General Assembly has said,” Judge Wright said in her ruling.
The plaintiffs in the case are Chesley Morton, a former legislator who sponsored the Georgia Humane Euthanasia Act, and Jennifer Robinson, who lost her dog and before she could claim him at the local shelter, he was gassed.
The Georgia Humane Euthanasia Act which became law in 1990. O.C.G.A. Â§4-11-5.1 That statute mandates that the use of sodium pentobarbital or a derivative must be the exclusive method for euthanasia of animals in public shelters. O.C.G.A. Â§4-11-5.1(a); Ga. Comp. R. & Regs Â§40-13-13-.08(1)
There are exceptions, however, that have allowed some shelters to continue to use animal gas chambers in Georgia. The statute specifically exempts or grandfathers in those gas chambers in use at the time the Humane Euthanasia Act became effective on July 1, 1990. O.C.G.A. 4-11-5.1(b)(1). Rural counties with populations less than 25,000 people may also continue to use animal gas chambers. O.C.G.A. Â§4-11-5.1(h).
Also, the statutes provides â€œin cases of extraordinary circumstance where the dog or cat poses an extreme risk or danger to the veterinarian, physician, or lay person performing euthanasiaâ€, then animal gas chambers may be used. O.C.G.A. Â§4-11-5.1(c) Basically, any dog or cat that a veterinarian or anyone else believes may bite them can be shoved into a gas chamber rather than euthanized by EBI. But state law states no animal may be left unattended during euthanasia. O.C.G.A. Â§4-11-5.1(f).
The evidence presented at the hearing established animals suffer greatly in gas chambers.
Mary Green, director of animal protection for the Department of Agriculture, testified several counties use gas chambers to kill dogs and cats though some may be exempt under the law. But she acknowledged at the time this lawsuit was filed earlier this month, her staff only located one request from a county for an exemption.
The Department has not decided if it will appeal the judgeâ€™s decision.
Euthanasia by injection of sodium pentobarbital or EBI is far more humane than killing animals in carbon monoxide gas chambers. Many times several dogs and cats are forced into small cages and wheeled into the chamber which resembles a metal box. Their cries, whining, howling and scratching are plainly audible to anyone in the vicinity of the chamber. Their agony and fear, their suffering, goes on for some time. Puppies, kittens and pregnant or sick animals may not die quickly. They may require multiple gassings before they are finally dead.
Many times animals are denied food and water during the day before they are gassed to make clean up more convenient. There will be less feces and urine from the gassing if they are first starved and denied water. Of course, this only adds to their stress.
Last year in a highly publicized case, a dog, Grace, was found alive in the Liberty County, Georgia gas chamber after a gassing, though she was shaking violently and covered in the blood, feces and urine of the animals who died around her in the chamber.