Court holds Georgia in contempt for allowing gassing

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, October 2007:
ATLANTA–Fulton County Superior Court Judge Tom Campbell on
October 3, 2007 found the Georgia Department of Agriculture in
contempt of court for allowing Cobb County to continue to kill
animals in a gas chamber.
Explained Associated Press writer Dorie Turner, “The state
issued a favorable inspection report last May for Cobb County’s
animal shelter even though the facility was operating a carbon
monoxide chamber at the time of the inspection,” contrary to the
requirements of the 1990 Georgia Humane Euthanasia Act. The act
requires that animal shelters must use sodium pentobarbital to kill
dogs and cats, and prohibits leaving dying animals unattended.


The Humane Euthanasia Act allowed county animal control
agencies that used carbon monoxide gas chambers in 1990 to continue
using them, but did not allow new gas chambers to be installed. It
exempted counties of under 25,000 residents. Wrote Turner, “Cobb
County’s gas chamber was installed in 1995, which state inspectors
knew when they checked the facility earlier this year, court
documents show.”
Fulton County Superior Court Judge Cynthia D. Wright in March
2007 ordered the Georgia Department of Agriculture to enforce the
Humane Euthanasia Act, but her order was ignored less than two
months later.
Wright ruled at request of former Georgia state
representative Chesley Morton, who authored the Humane Euthanasia
Act, and veterinary technician Jennifer Robinson, whose dog Pacino
was gassed by Clayton County Animal Control after being hit by two
cars.
At least three Georgia shelters decommissioned gas chambers
following Wright’s ruling.

Virginia

The contempt of court verdict in Georgia came two months
after the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
announced in early August 2007 that gas chambers must be phased out
by year’s end.
“The last three areas in the state still using carbon
monoxide chambers–Wythe, Lee, and Scott counties–are converting to
more humane lethal injections,” wrote Virginian-Pilot reporter John
Hopkins. “Martinsville discontinued the use of gas chambers earlier
this year.”
Humane Society of the U.S. media contact Kathy Covey credited
the end of gassing in Virginia to work begun in November 2000 by
longtime HSUS staffer Kate Pullen and Teresa Dockery, then president
of the Virginia Federation of Humane Societies, now legislative
analyst for Virginia Voters for Animal Welfare.
Pressure to abolish gassing in Virginia increased through
Internet activism after police and animal control officers in
Fairfield, Connecticut in July 2006 found 129 dogs and nine other
animals, along with three children under age 12, in a house that
housed a project called Companions for Life.
“Companions for Life’s Web site stated that all of the dogs
obtained by the group came from a ‘very rural part of Virginia where
they are still euthanized in gas chambers at high rates and have no
chance at life other than our rescue,'” summarized Fairfield
Minuteman staff writer Chris Ciarmiello.
Charged with more than 100 counts of cruelty, Companions for
Life founder Robbin D’Urso in October 2006 accepted penalties for
seven related counts without admitting guilt. In August 2007 D’Urso,
45, was jailed for her second alleged violation of probation.
North Carolina
The North Carolina Department of Agriculture took comments
through August 2007 on proposed new rules for shelter killing, under
revision since 2005, that would allow continued use of gas. The
department was due to adopt or again revise the rules by the end of
September. Instead, exulted North Carolina Coalition for Humane
Euthanasia founder Michele King, “They have to scrap the proposed
rules and start over! The department received hundreds of letters
opposing the rules, and many animal lovers spoke at the public
hearing in July to voice their opinons. So there will be a new set
of rules drafted, and a new comment period.”
Thirty-eight North Carolina counties still gas animals,
according to Lisa Sorg of the Independent Weekly, a newspaper
serving the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill triangle. Sorg in August 2007
investigated allegations of conflict of interest involving Pittsboro
veterinarian Ralph Houser, who both sells gas chambers and conducts
three-day euthanasia training seminars for animal shelter personnel.
Wrote Sorg, “Houser says he doesn’t profit from engineering
and selling his $7,000 chambers because he sells them ‘at cost’ to
public shelters, and that he’s filling a need.”
Vet tech Kelly Hayward, who took Houser’s seminar in 1999,
told Sorg that it “was like an infomercial for gas,” but Pitt County
animal control manager Michelle Whaley, who took the seminar in
2005, wrote to North Carolina Department of Agriculture animal
welfare division chief Lee Hunter that “98% of it focused on
euthanasia by injection. Never did Dr. Houser approach us about
buying a chamber or try to persuade us to use carbon monoxide.”

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