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Bulloch shelter waiting to see if gassing chamber will be prohibited
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The Statesboro - Bulloch County Animal Shelter is waiting for word from the Georgia Department of Agriculture on whether its method of euthanasia will be changed from gassing with carbon monoxide to injection of sodium pentobarbital.
    Friday afternoon, neither Bulloch County Humane Enforcement Supervisor Joey Sanders nor Bulloch County Public Safety Director Ted Wynn had heard from state agriculture officials regarding an injunction Friday morning that ordered Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Tommy Irvin to uphold the law.
    A call to agriculture department representative Arty Schronce was not returned Friday.
    Fulton County Superior Court Judge Cynthia D. Wright said Friday it appeared that Irvin had been allowing shelters, with ‘‘a wink and a nod,’’ to continue gassing animals to death 17 years after the legislature adopted a law preventing the use of gas chambers aside from certain exemptions.
    ‘‘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,’’ Wright said in her ruling, which came after four hours of testimony.
    The  Official Code of Georgia Annotated 4-11-5.1 states injection by sodium pentobarbitol is to be "the exclusive method for euthanasia of dogs and cats by animal shelters ..." unless a shelter is located in a county less than 25,000 in population, was using the gas chamber before 1990, or  the animals being euthanized are dangerous.
    Bulloch County Staff Attorney Jeff Akins has said many animals that are euthanized in the Statesboro-Bulloch County shelter fall into this category - feral or vicious animals that would be difficult to euthanize by injection, and dangerous to both the animal and handlers if euthanasia by injection is required.
    Wynn said Friday he is unsure whether the local shelter will be allowed to continue using the gas chamber method for feral and dangerous animals, as he had not been instructed by state officials as the time.
    "We will do whatever they request us t o do," he said.
    If the shelter is required to perform euthanasia by injection, Wynn will have to approach Bulloch County Commissioners for a budget amendment to fund not only the supplies needed, but to train employees in the injection euthanasia method as well as pay local veterinarians to perform the euthanasia until employee training is completed, he said.
    The injunction prevents Irvin from issuing new licenses to shelters using carbon monoxide (with the exception of those exempt). Sanders said Friday the local shelter won't be up for relicensing until next year.
    Irvin, 77, the nation’s longest-serving state agriculture chief and possibly the longest-serving state official, testified Friday that the law is unclear and that the decision on how to euthanize animals should be left up to local governments.
    ‘‘There’s a strong feeling in this state that big old state government shouldn’t be running over local governments,’’ he said. ‘‘I pretty much subscribe to that.’’
     The Associated Press contributed to this story.
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