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Bulloch animal shelter part of anti-gassing court case
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    A hearing today will help determine whether a handful of animal shelters in Georgia will be able to continue using carbon monoxide gas chambers as a method of euthanasia.
    The Statesboro-Bulloch County Animal Shelter is included in a small number of Georgia animal shelters using this method, which supporters of a lawsuit filed last week against Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Tommy Irvin say is illegal.
    The hearing is slated for 10 a.m. today in the Fulton County Superior Court. The lawsuit was filed March 12 by national law firm Schiff Hardin LLP on behalf of a former Clayton County Humane Society employee and former state Rep. Chesley Morton.
    The unidentified former employee owned a dog that was euthanized by carbon monoxide after being struck by a car, according to information from PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), which has expressed an interest in the case.
     Morton introduced the Humane Euthanasia Act in 1990, which states euthanasia by injection is to be the exclusive method of euthanasia unless certain exemptions exist.
    The plaintiffs  seek an injunction to stop Irvin and the Georgia Department of Agriculture from continuing to license shelters that are currently illegally gassing animals.
    “Officials are turning their backs on animals’ suffering and allowing illegal gassing to continue,” said Leana Stormont,  PETA’s legal counsel . “Common decency warrants humane euthanasia, and Georgia law requires it.”
    Irvin was not immediately available for comment Thursday, but Ga. Dept. of Agriculture spokesman Arty Schronce issued a statement from Irvin: "Due to this being a matter under litigation, I have been advised by the Attorney General’s office to limit comments concerning the facts and issues in this case."
    He also stated the Georgia law is not officially listed as the “Humane Euthanasia Act” and that methods of euthanasia are a local decision.
    " This is a label that the persons bringing this lawsuit have apparently come up with," he said.  And, "If a shelter falls within one of the exemptions in the law, then it is a local matter as to whether that shelter decides to act under it," he said.  "People who are unhappy about the law and the exemptions it provides should contact their legislators. "
@Subhead:Waiting for word
@Bodycopy:    Bulloch County Staff Attorney Jeff Akins said the Statesboro-Bulloch County Animal Shelter will continue current methods of euthanasia until directed to change the methods.
    "We will wait to hear from the Department of Agriculture," he said. "We'll have to cross that bridge when we get to it. We're not at that bridge yet."
    He said the Department of Agriculture sent a letter asking county officials to provide documentation if the shelter meets two exemption requirements - having had the gas chamber in use since 1990, or the county having less than 25,000 in population.
    The Statesboro-Bulloch County shelter does not meet either exemption, he said, but does qualify under another exemption that provides the use of the carbon monoxide chamber for euthanasia  outlined by Georgia law (O. C. G. A. 4-11-5.1) "in cases of extraordinary circumstance where the dog or cat poses an extreme risk or danger to the veterinarian, physician, or lay person performing euthanasia, such person shall be allowed the use of any other substance or procedure that is humane to perform euthanasia on such dangerous dog or cat."
    "A lot of the animals we have to euthanize probably fall into that category," he said in an earlier interview, referring to information he said came from both a local veterinarian who works with the shelter, as well as Humane Enforcement Supervisor Joey Sanders.
    Akins said carbon monoxide euthanasia is an approved method.
    "The official report from the American Veterinary Medical Association approves carbon monoxide chambers as an 'acceptable method,'" he said. "We use (the chamber) in accordance with AVMA guidelines."
    Other Georgia shelters using carbon monoxide chambers to euthanize animals include Cobb, Clayton, Henry, and Rockdale counties; the Savannah-Chatham County and Tifton-Tift County shelters as well as the Warner Robins and city of Macon shelters.
    Between March 5-18, the shelter reported receiving 52 dogs, 11 puppies and 20 cats, according to information submitted by shelter manager Wendy Joiner.
    Through in-shelter and outside adoption events, 30 dogs were adopted and seven were taken by rescue groups. Six cats were adopted as well. However, during the two-week period, 34 dogs and 21 cats were euthanized.
    In past interviews, Bulloch County Public Safety Director Ted Wynn, who oversees the shelter, said the Statesboro-Bulloch County Animal Shelter receives "160 to 200 dogs a month." The shelter also takes in a large number of cats as well.
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