Action Alerts!

Georgia Alert 1-23-09: The Cat Tag is on the Georgia Department of Agriculture website and in the media

Georgia Department of Agriculture Website:,2473,38902732,00.html 
The Cat Tag also made the front page of today’s AJC:

Here are other media outlets that carried the story:

Georgia Alert: 1-8-09 Gas Chamber White Paper

The Board of the Humane Association of Georgia (HAGA) was asked to discuss gas chambers. We prefer to focus on decreasing the number of animals killed. Good animal stewardship, proper placement in appropriate homes, and spay/neuter are the keys to ending animal overpopulation and the killing of healthy, adoptable animals. The National Animal Control Association says that every $1 spent now for spay/neuter, may reduce animal control costs as much as $20 in less than 5 years.

 Spay/neuter is a healthy choice that prevents unwanted litters and often eliminates behavioral issues, such as urine spraying, fighting and roaming, which contribute to animals being relinquished. The Dog and Cat Sterilization Program subsidizes the cost of spay/neuter, and is available to all Georgia citizens and organizations through Georgia licensed veterinarians:

Sodium pentobarbital

Euthanasia by Injection (EBI) or lethal injection is the preferred method according to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the Georgia Animal Protection Act (4-11-5.1). Many states including Georgia refer to the AVMA guidelines by either rule or law. Georgia’s euthanasia law states, “…Sodium pentobarbital or a derivative of it shall be the exclusive method for euthanasia of dogs and cats…” with the exception of chambers in continual use since 1990 or located in county with a population of 25,000 or less.

Illegal use of sodium pentobarbital or ketamine, sometimes used for “date rape,” is a concern and some animal control facilities do not have a veterinarian or physician willing to take responsibility for these federally controlled substances as mandated by Georgia law because of previous issues or because they are located too far from the facility. In 1999, the Food & Drug Administration halted production of sodium pentobarbital at the only manufacturer of the drug. Atlanta Humane / Fulton County Animal Control averted a statewide emergency by sharing its inventory with other counties.

HB 1050 would have mandated the exclusive use of sodium pentobarbital. The upfront costs for lethal injection are mainly for training. Considering that 62 of Georgia’s 159 counties have no form of animal control and many only have the bare minimum, it would be difficult to enforce this unfunded mandate. Ultimately, any county or facility may voluntarily use lethal injection exclusively without cutting off access to alternative methods for exceptions.

Gas Chambers

We believe there may be valid exceptions to lethal injection, such as feral animals, animals with collapsed veins, diseased rats, or a rabid fox or raccoon. Special techniques and equipment, such as squeeze cages and pre-sedation for aggressive animals can limit exceptions or exceptions could be handled by a veterinarian.

Recent statistics from the Georgia Department of Agriculture show there are 32 gas chambers in Georgia. Fourteen are “used for routine euthanasia” (4 grandfathered by continuous use and 10 in counties with populations less than 25,000), 8 still in service though not used routinely, and 10 no longer used. The high upfront cost, public opposition and possible health hazards should be seriously considered before purchasing a chamber. Officers have been killed or sickened by malfunctioning chambers, much like malfunctioning generators in homes during the winter.

Both Methods have Negative Aspects

Either gas chambers or lethal injection of sodium pentobarbital is cruel if done incorrectly. Pitfalls include too small a dose and doing a “heart stick” without sedation for lethal injection, and mixing species or sizes of animals, using a leaking or substandard chamber, and not ensuring the animals are dead with a gas chamber. No matter which method is used, strict protocol should be followed. Indeed, there is the possibility of cruelty charges for noncompliance. Discussions are starting in other states and countries to make the killing of animals by animal control, under any circumstances, cruelty.

There are human considerations as well. Killing animals by any means causes stress and depression among animal control staff, contributing to high turnover. Animal control professionals tasked with killing these excess animals daily may need alternatives for mental health purposes. What some people observe as laziness in animal control may be a manifestation of depression. The ability to comfort an animal during lethal injection is less stressful to some, where others feel more stressed having to use a needle. Vocalization disturbs professionals and volunteers alike, although vocalization and dog paddling may be exhibited using either method or simply when coming out of anesthesia and are not always tied to pain, so training may reduce stress.

The per-animal costs of either method are comparable over time. Efforts to mandate more inspections, accurate statistics and greater control of existing gas chambers would be difficult considering the Georgia Department of Agriculture’s Animal Protection Division’s annual budget is only approximately $1 million for this overworked statewide division that is under a hiring freeze.

HAGA’s Position

Until killing animals is no longer necessary, we recommend taking the advice of our veterinarians and following the AVMA guidelines to use lethal injection. We depend on our veterinarians as our animal experts and some of these professionals feel that other methods are sometimes less stressful to the animals than lethal injection. For those who disagree with the AVMA, instead of attacking specific municipalities, counties, states or groups using these guidelines, we suggest a focused forum to understand the reasons behind the guidelines and then discuss the possibilities of influencing the AVMA for change.

We advocate providing money, veterinarian support, and lethal injection training for staff and volunteers in any county still using a gas chamber but our focus will remain on saving lives. Please encourage everyone you know to spay/neuter. It is your business since it is your tax money that pays to kill these unfortunate animals and remember an intact animal is 3 times more likely to bite, roam and spread disease and 1/3 of all of emergency room cases are dog-bite related according to the United States Postal Service.

The following groups have graciously offered resources:

American Humane Association, Elaine Wood (303) 925-9488 – training and grant opportunities for transition from gas chambers to sodium pentobarbital

Georgia Veterinary Medical Association (678) 309-9800 – help find supervising veterinarians as needed

Georgia Animal Control Association (706) 342-9604 – assist in locating animal control officer training

Humane Association of Georgia and the Dog and Cat Sterilization Fund, Carolyn Danese (404) 827-0603 – spay/neuter funding and education

Humane Society of the United States, Southeast Regional Office (850) 386-3435 – help with the transition from gas chambers to sodium pentobarbital

Carolyn Danese, 
President and for the Board 
Humane Association of Georgia, Inc. 
A statewide coalition of humane societies, animal control and rescue groups and individuals 
Visit our website: 

About the organization: 
HAGA is known for the Animal Protection Act of 2000 that makes some acts of animal cruelty a felony and the Dog and Cat Sterilization License Plates and the Dog and Cat Tax Check Off to fund statewide spay/neuter projects. Our formation allowed Georgia to be the first state by law to allow animals in disaster shelter. We were formed to support good animal legislation, provide education about good animal stewardship and help animals in times of disaster. HAGA is a member of the Georgia Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster.

Georgia Alert: December 5, 2008 from the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) Executive Board:  
AVMA revises policy on ear cropping and tail docking


Schaumburg, Ill., November 26, 2008    

— The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) Executive Board voted to strengthen association policy on two practices common in certain breeds of dogs—ear cropping and tail docking.

The revised AVMA policy states: “The AVMA opposes ear cropping and tail docking of dogs when done solely for cosmetic purposes. The AVMA encourages the elimination of ear cropping and tail docking from breed standards.”

“For many years the AVMA has acknowledged that ear cropping and tail docking of dogs for cosmetic purposes are not medically indicated nor of benefit to our canine patients,” explains Dr. Ron DeHaven, chief executive officer of the AVMA. “Our latest policy revision doesn’t represent a change in perspective, but, rather, makes that perspective clear with a stronger statement.”

The AVMA decided to adjust its policy on tail docking and ear cropping after a scheduled review of an existing policy. The review included an analysis of scientific literature and available data, an assessment of the practical experience of veterinarians, and deliberations by the AVMA Animal Welfare Committee.

“Why we perform certain procedures is one of the first questions we ask. Once that question is answered, committee members look at any associated welfare concerns,” explains Dr. Gail Golab, director of the AVMA Animal Welfare Division. “‘Cosmetic’ implies the basis for these procedures is to alter the dog’s appearance. Welfare risks identified included those associated with surgical procedures, i.e., anesthetic complications, pain, blood loss and infection. In the committee’s opinion, the risk-benefit analysis supports professional opposition to performing these procedures for purely cosmetic reasons.”

In recommending policy revisions, the committee was careful to distinguish ear cropping and tail docking performed for cosmetic reasons from procedures performed for therapeutic or preventive purposes. “If it can be responsibly demonstrated that the purpose of performing the procedure is to protect the health and welfare of the dog, then of course the Association would support the appropriate surgery,” said Dr. DeHaven.

The AVMA and its more than 76,000 member veterinarians are engaged in a wide variety of activities dedicated to advancing the science and art of animal, human and public health. Visit the AVMA Web site at for more information.                

Tom McPheron 
Phone: 847-285-6781 
Cell: 773-494-5419 

Georgia Alert: December 5, 2008 from the Georgia Department of Agriculture: 
Pets for Christmas not a good idea


Returning home to find a new pet sick or in need of medical care is not the Christmas memory you’ll want to carry through the years.  That is one of the things Agriculture Commissioner Tommy Irvin wants Georgians to think about before purchasing or adopting a pet for Christmas.

Here are a few points to consider from Commissioner Irvin:

•       Never give an animal to anyone unless that person wants it, expects it, and is prepared to immediately care for it.  People receiving the animal should bond with that animal beforehand.  They should not be surprised by it or have it forced on them, even by someone with the best of intentions.

•       With the bustle of holiday festivities and duties, do you have the time to effectively care and watch out for a new animal or to deal with housebreaking and litter box issues?

•       Introducing a new animal into new surroundings can be stressful.  A home full of holiday guests and small children, each wanting to hold and feed the animal, only makes the stress worse.

•       Chocolate, grapes, raisins and macadamia nuts are dangerous to dogs.  A dog can choke on a turkey or chicken bone.  Will you be able to make sure it doesn’t get into any of these or that a guest won’t feed them to the dog?

•       Decorations may look like playthings to a dog or cat eager to explore its new surroundings.  Will you be upset if the cat climbs into the Christmas tree to hide or if the dog chews up an heirloom ornament? 

•       Veterinarians will be harder to reach during the holiday if there is an emergency.

•       Will your children think an animal is like a toy that can be discarded when they grow tired of it?

•       A pet is a long-term commitment of time and money.  Do you want a companion or do you just need a gift?

“The main thing I want Georgians to remember is that decisions about getting a pet should be carefully considered.  The last thing animal shelters want to see is another orphaned animal.  A dog or cat is not like a sweater that you can return or stick in the back of the closet,” said Commissioner Irvin. 

“The second thing is that Christmas may not be the best time to introduce a new pet into the household.  If you and your children sincerely want a dog or cat as a Christmas gift, consider giving a photo or drawing of one on Christmas morning and then visit an animal shelter and adopt one in January.

“And, of course, always spay and neuter your cat or dog,” Irvin added.

Editor’s Note:  One of the best things pet owners can do for their dogs and cats is to have them spayed or neutered. Spaying greatly reduces the risk of breast cancer and prevents various reproductive tract disorders. Neutering often resolves undesirable behaviors such as aggression, spraying and roaming as well as eliminates the risk of various testicular diseases.  In addition to improving a pet’s health, spaying or neutering decreases the burden on overcrowded animal shelters.  The Georgia Department of Agriculture recognizes the epidemic proportions of pet overpopulation.  Through its Dog and Cat Sterilization Program, the Department is curbing pet overpopulation statewide.  For information on the Dog and Cat Sterilization Program, visit or call 404-656-3667. 

For information contact: Arty Schronce or Jackie Sosby 404-656-3689 
Georgia Department of Agriculture 
Tommy Irvin, Commissioner 
19 Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. SW 
Atlanta, GA 30334