Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Fallacy of “Fates Worse Than Death”

For those seasoned rescuer's we are often exposed to the worst of what mankind has to offer with our experiences with shelter dogs. But have we lost the ability to step back and see the lighter side that dogs bring to our lives. Dogs who ply, dogs who seem not to have a care in the world, why should we be the one's to choose whether ending a shelter dog's previous suffering is a excuse that overlooks a dogs amazing abilty to respond to just a small measure of love, care and consideration.

In January of 2007 I was asked to take in a beagle named Camilla from Northeast Georgia Animal Shelter. Camilla was about five plus years old and was suffering from a severe skin condition which caused her to lose over half of the hair on her body. One would assume that if rescue was about saving dogs from a "Fate Far Worse Than Death" the logical disposition for Camilla would be a humane ending to life as she knew it.

Rather then make this judgment call myself I decided to let Camilla make that choice. Despite her obvious suffering from what was a skin condition that didn't seem to respond to the many treatments we tried camilla remained stoically a beagle at heart, spending her days in search of a scent and ultimately in search of food for her belly. Despite her suffering she never seemed to stop wagging that tail or ignoring your every command. Yet, still, Camilla was still by definition "un adoptable (in her present condition) and a perfect candidate for a "no kill sheltering" for the rest of her life.

While we never gave up on finding a cure for her illness often times realty was to simply try and help Camilla hold her own. She would have good weeks and some that were not so good. Through it all I became tremendously attached to this little girl and by the summer of 2008 considered Camilla as one of my own.

However, this love for Camilla was not shared by our local animal sheltering world. Flexing the muscle's developed with the "steroid" bill we call our local animal ordinance of 2007 animal control and our local animal rights leaning solicitor's office zeroed in on beagles like Camilla by suggested she be included as one of ten beagles I surrender to appease the county over our dog barking ordeal.

Fate would decide that Camilla and others would become the local poster dogs for why poorly thought out laws can set a dangerous precedent where the courts, not the pet owner or rescue caretaker, hold the ultimate judgment of the Fate of Death which would be far worse then life itself for these innocent victims.

Despite assurances from insiders working with animal control who assured me ALL the hounds I surrendered would be turned over to rescue why would any reasonable person believe this when the shelter had such a dismal record with the healthy dogs that went through the shelter. The reality was that a dog suffering from the abuse of a previous owner would simply be moved from a home where she was cared for, loved and kept safe and become a statistic on a monthly spreadsheet instead.

Fortunately, our case went better then we expected, the judge refused to order surrender of any pets and as the news head lines leaked out the "hounds were elated". I still took beagles like Camilla to adoptions every weekend even though there was little chance anyone would share my commitment to this sweet but medically challenged little hound. Then along came that special person....

A little more then six weeks after our trial a woman approached the cages where the beagles were, well acting like beagles and ask if "that beagle was still available." Even though she pointed at Camilla I started pointing out the other more healthy beagles but she cut me off withy "no, I want THAT beagle - the one who's speaking to me..." Low and behold Camilla was speaking to her, wagging her tail and working real hard to get her attention". After a lengthy discussion about Camilla's health issues she was adopted.

From time to time over the next few months I would see Camilla on her trips to Petsmart. You really couldn't tell who was happier Camilla or her new proud mom. But what you could see was a gradual improvement in Camilla's overall health. Six months and over $1,200 in vet bills later Camilla is no longer Camilla in name or body. Her new name is Georgia and she has completely recovered from her illness.

Georgia has a beautiful beagle coat, has added six pounds to her once skinny frame and serves as a perfect example why we shouldn't be so quick to judge whether there ever is a fate far better then death. Certainly you would have a difficult time convincing Georgia or her mom of this ridiculous assumption.

From Nathan Winograd's blog:

The Fallacy of “Fates Worse Than Death”
April 28, 2009 by Nathan J. Winograd

Recently, I read a letter from a woman who has spent half a century doing animal rescue work. Her description of her experiences over the years, including the heartbreaking rescue of a near-dead kitten abandoned near a dumpster, makes it clear she cares deeply about animals. And yet, she opposes No Kill. She opposes No Kill because she believes that “there are fates worse than death.” And she cannot conceive of a No Kill nation because she sees a crisis of uncaring in the U.S., a conclusion drawn from decades of experience seeing abandoned, neglected, and abused animals. She knows this, she says, not from “percentages, data, and studies,” but from “what she has seen with her own eyes.”

Sadly, she, and other animal rescuers who share these views, have been in the trenches of rescue work so long, that they have become myopic, and as a result, they have come to believe that the world of animals is little more than pain and suffering. They have been led to believe in the inevitability of certain outcomes, and the things they witness seem to confirm this point of view for them. In addition, the large national organizations which they turn to for guidance reaffirm their beliefs: people don’t care, irresponsibility is rampant, there are too many unwanted animals, and the only available choices for a majority of these animals are a quick death in a shelter or suffering on the streets. Because they lack personal experience at progressive shelters which would debunk these views and have trained themselves not to see evidence to the contrary all around them, they have actually come to believe that “killing is kindness” and the alternative is worse. But they could not be more wrong.

And what is driving these misplaced perceptions is a lack of perspective—perspective which comes from a larger view, a global vision, a top-down image they cannot see and which the animal protection movement historically has failed to provide. They have a distorted view of reality. If they took a step back, if they allowed themselves to see what is happening nationally, if they kept an open mind and stayed informed about the emerging success of the No Kill movement, they would see something else entirely, as many other rescuers do. They would see the “big picture”—which reveals that there is a way out of killing and that a No Kill nation is not only possible, it is well within our reach.

There are roughly eight million dogs and cats entering shelters every year, a small fraction compared to the 165 million in people’s homes. Of those entering shelters, only four percent are seized because of cruelty and neglect. Some people surrender their animals because they are irresponsible, but others do so because they have nowhere else to turn—a person dies, they lose their job, their home is foreclosed. In theory, that is why shelters exist–-to be a safety net for animals whose caretakers no longer can or want to care for them. And the majority of animals who enter these shelters can, and should, be saved.

Based on dog bite extrapolation data, an analysis of intakes at shelters, and the results of the best performing shelters in the country, about 90% of all animals would be adopted if our shelters where compassionate places run by animal lovers dedicated to saving lives. Indeed, imagine if this were actually realized. Imagine if shelters provided good care, comfort, and plenty of affection to the animals during their stays at these way stations funded through tax and philanthropic dollars by a dog- and cat- loving culture. And imagine if all shelters embraced the No Kill philosophy and the programs and services which make it possible. We would be a No Kill nation today. Because while roughly four million dogs and cats are needlessly killed every year, there are also three times as many people—upwards of 17 million—who are looking to get a new companion animal next year and who have not yet decided where that animal will come from. And, as communities across the country have proven, a great many of them could very easily be persuaded to adopt a shelter animal.

For the rest of the story.....

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Gwinnett Animal Advisory Council – Making Policies Founded on Fear?

The Gwinnett Animal Advisory Council (GAAC) met on Tuesday, April 21, to consider proposed changes to the county’s animal ordinance. A spirited discussion, shrouded in contemptuous overtones that pervaded for two plus hours, focused on nuisance dog barking and tethering restrictions. From this writer’s perspective, representing "We, the Pet Owners of Gwinnett" a grassroots group of concerned pet owners, the feeling tone set by GAAC is reflective of a common malady: fear of change.

Nonetheless, considerable progress was made in that GAAC and We, the Pet Owners of Gwinnett each made compromises in revising nuisance dog barking and tethering guidelines. As a result, a modified animal ordinance was crafted, to be submitted to the Gwinnett County Commission for their recommendations and approval. GAAC member Carla Brown worked diligently to resolve contentious issues and deserves the community’s thanks for her efforts

Although the proposal presented by We the Pet Owners of Gwinnett wasn't adopted in its entirety, consensus was reached regarding several key provisions within the proposed revised ordinance. Changes included in the new ordinance are listed below under the subject categories.

Nuisance Dog Barking

Sentencing guidelines no longer include jail and/or probation.

Pets of an owner cited with a barking violation will not be removed from the home.
An owner can be cited just once (per incident) for a barking violation, rather than multiple times based on the number of dogs he or she owns, as is currently enforced.

The new ordinance requires two complainants from individuals who live at addresses close to the disturbance (rather then one as in the current law). This complaint expires after thirty days meaning the process would have to start all over.

Removed was the language that excluded barking when vocalizations are given as a warning to the "presence of a person trespassing on the property were the animal(s) are present. This section alone would be a deal breaker in any new ordinance, the county will go back to the current language that vocalizations do not apply "as a warning to the presence of an intruder".

The new law will incorporate a mediation process in resolving conflicts.

However, AAC Chair Gail Laberge refused a change that would reduce the maximum fine from it's current "up to $1,000" level to a more realistic fine of "up to $100". While Laberge never said the fine was a "reasonable" amount one can assume her refusal to put limitations in place demonstrates her opinion excessive fines are not unreasonable.

Laberge, who represents the Lawrenceville Kennel Club, went on to claim that the wording says the judge MAY give a fine not to exceed $1,000 but allows the judge to give a fine from $0.00 to $1,000. Of course, putting reasonable restraints on the court process that would lower that range to $0.00 to $100 and still allow the same discretion.

Laberge has a disconnect with the court process. After all, it was under her leadership that the current draconian ordinance was passed in 2007. Judge's are not required to levy fines for convictions under Recorders Court rules.

The problem with allowing excessive fines for minor offenses is in how those guidelines are used to intimidate pet owners into relinquishing their pets without even going through the court system. The issue of maximum sentencing is being abused by the county solicitor's office during what should be "good faith" plea negotiations.

Further, animal control is able to use the threats of "potential" sentencing limits to convince pet owners who are not even charged with a crime to surrender their pets in lieu of being cited. Animals who are surrendered thus become part of a much larger issue of escalating intake and kill numbers at the county shelter.

"We the Pet Owners of Gwinnett" will continue to lobby for fines that fit the offense. There is no reasonable explanation for excessive fines that punish responsible pet owners in the process. Pets are part of our culture and deserve to be treated as such.

Tethering Guidelines

Slight modifications were made to the total ban on tethering and approved which will allow for short term tethering when the pet owner is present. Once those changes are finalized I will "blog" them for public discussion.

Progress made thus far in hammering out an animal ordinance satisfactory to Gwinnett County government officials, pet owners, animal control employees and GCAA represents the culmination of nine months of intensive efforts. While it is encouraging, progress far beyond “putting a good animal control ordinance in place” begs for attention.

Legislation is often thought of as a quick solution to high rates of shelter killing. For those "animal advocating" attorneys who write these laws and claim to be motivated by saving lives, there is a more powerful driving force in play: a desire to punish. Ultimately, it is the animals they claim to want to save who are punished by losing their lives in the process.

Experience paints a different picture of saving more lives - communities like Gwinnett that have passed such draconian laws instead find themselves moving in the opposite direction. Shelter intake rises which translates into more killing, not less. More killing translates into additional animal control funding needed and the process spirals.

We will never lower our shelter intakes and kill numbers without enhancing proven life-saving strategies instead. If we are ever going to realize change we must stop ignoring the excuses of blame that lead to shelter failure. Every dog and cat killed is a shelter failure.

You can't eliminate public irresponsibility but you can stop using it as an excuse to kill. There is more then enough compassion, caring, kindness and love for our pets in Gwinnett to overcome the much smaller amount of human irresponsibility. What is needed is a shift in thinking that moves away from excuses to solutions instead.

Additional discussions during the Animal Advisory Meeting addressed:

Volunteer Program

The current "volunteer" program is non functional. The failure to implement a volunteer spirit in the community, a failure to organize a working foster care program, a failure to increase exposure for pets needing homes through off-site adoption events, a failure to implement "trap,neuter release" policies for feral cats, a failure to maintain a customer friendly shelter environment, a failure to offer affordable services that nurture responsible pet ownership in the community all feed into a failing animal welfare policies of killing more at our shelter.

Instead our current volunteer program requires a thorough criminal background check thus stifling most citizens from the program. Even this program is closely guarded as there are no links on the county web site that would advise volunteers on how they can participate.

The Animal Advisory meeting included a discussion about the application and background check process that quite probably is discouraging community volunteer participation. Until we get over a philosophy of running the public animal shelter like a prison that problem will persist.

Thus, we have a dismal number of less then twenty volunteers who currently participate.

Clearly, that is not enough participation to make a noticeable difference in helping to advance "these" pets chances of being adopted back into the community.

Life saving programs that need volunteers include:

Help with off site and special adoption events.
Fostering dogs and cats thus expanding the number of pets being made available for adoption.
Educational programs in the community that promote the shelter and responsible pet ownership.
Pet councilors that offer resources that help pet owners avoid relinquishing their pets.
Maintaining the shelter's "Petfinders" listing to vastly improve a pets chances at being adopted or being transferred to rescue.

Without unpaid volunteers programs like off site adoption, special adoption events at the shelter and many of the other services that volunteers can offer in helping to keep the public informed about pets needing help go unresolved.

Partnerships with the Rescue Community

A significant issue that needs to be addressed is the dramatic drop in dogs and cats being transferred to area rescue groups in 2008. That number dropped a staggering 35% in one year alone.

Shelter Director Mary Respress commented that many of the rescue groups the shelter approaches are not taking in animals because they are full. The sad reality is many long time very responsible rescue groups do not pull from Gwinnett because they feel like they are not treated as partners in the shelters success.

Hopefully, putting an end to the repressive enforcement of the county's animal ordinance might help reduce that tension but it is also imperative that the shelter realize there are serious issues that need to be addressed in order for rescue to openly embrace pulling from Gwinnett.

Rescue groups or foster homes who reside in Gwinnett will not risk the judgmental thinking that could endanger their personal pets and current fosters when there are pets available in nearby shelters who are not so intrusive. That is not an opinion - it is a reality.

Building and expanding a partnership coalition with the rescue community is imperative in moving towards finding rescue solutions for many of the dogs and cats who are left with no other options..

Revamping the Animal Advisory Council

The current structure of GAAC is, in my opinion, dysfunctional and primarily serves the special interest that blocks change. This structure is heavily weighted in support of local breeder and kennel club interest who compete in the marketplace with shelter pets.

GAAC Chair Laberge, who represents the AKC, countered with "I do not believe the GAAC is dysfunctional nor do I believe it blocks change. The GAAC tries very hard to look at all issues brought to the GAAC and recommend what is best for the community and the animals."

Yet, Laberge is hard pressed in explaining her support of the 2007 Animal Ordinance Revisions that allowed the county to jail pet owners and take away their family pets for minor ordinance infractions. She hard pressed in explaining the lack of a volunteer program, she's hard pressed in explaining the shelter's policy of "trap and kill" for ferals which resulted in a huge increase in the number of cats being killed.

Clearly, the best interests of the community and the animals were not served with those sentencing guidelines - nor are the best interests of the taxpayers who foot the bill for all of this excessive killing.

Laberge tried to clarify her comments with "There are seven members of the GAAC and we don't always agree. I have only one vote and sometimes I am in the minority on a decision, an example was the regulation to ban all tethering. I stated at the time that I thought that was a mistake and it has proven true, but the Council voted and the majority of members at that time wanted to ban all tethering."

In reality, there were no dissenting votes in approving this flawed bill which now has been corrected. If Laberge lacks the backbone to vote her conscience then she should not be in a leadership position.

A true paradigm shift is called for in that we must get past the mind set that “killing the excess is what we have to do.” We must find the ways and means to improve current programs and implement additional programs that we know save lives.

WE MUST get past this current thinking of justifying the excuses for killing a pet and push on to ways and methods for saving lives. The history and voting record of this GAAC, many of whom are long time members, will not be resolved without changes in the makeup and will of the council. We the Pet Owners of Gwinnett support a proposal that would have added in local pet owners from each commissioner's district.

GAAC Chairperson Laberge has removed this proposal from the GAAC agenda. There have been no discussions or an up or down vote that addresses changing the makeup of the board to be more inclusive for local pet owners.

In her explanation she explains "just because the topic of the GAAC was not on the April agenda does not mean the topic has been removed for future meetings. But I will remind you that in the end, the Commissioners decide the makeup of the GAAC. The Gwinnett Animal Advisory Council (GAAC) does not have the authority to expand the size of the GAAC. Enlarging the membership of the GAAC can only be done by the Gwinnett County Commissioners and the Commissioners are the only ones who can do the by-laws for the GAAC."

That does not explain her efforts to halt discussions on this proposal. The GAAC does have a responsibility to discuss, vote on and send forward any proposals for board considerations. She is correct, however, in the end it will be up the BOC who answer to the voters to determine whether our animal advisory council includes voices from the pet owning community or continues to disenfranchise them instead.

With the next meeting scheduled for July 21st, we will once again face the sad reality that "the business of killing our community's pets" is our animal welfare policy for the balance of 2009. This is clearly not acceptable to those demanding change.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Tomorrow's DOA Meeting CANCELED

One of the advocates planning on attending tomorrow afternoon's meeting of the Department of Agriculture's "Companion Animal Advisory Board" has been informed by Mary Green's office the meeting is "canceled".

According to Susan Berryman, who works in Mary Greene's office, Mary is in Savannah for the weekend and she seemed to think that the May 2nd date was a "typo". She claims the meeting was scheduled for May 12th, but overheard that has been canceled (was erased from Mary Greene's calendar.

The May 2nd date was given to me on the telephone when I originally consulted with the Department of Ag office weeks ago. It was verified as a response to my open records request by return mail PRIOR to my announcing that date to the various rescue groups and advocates who were planning on attending.

One is left to guess whether this was a deliberate attempt to keep this group's activity out of the public eye which would be an egregious violation of the open meeting act this group is required by law to follow.

For those of us who now have to reschedule OUR weekend at this late hour my suggestion is to make our voices heard loud and clear - "this lack of professionalism is NOT acceptable" for a group who exists to serve the public's needs - not their own.

At this point the "meeting" has been rescheduled for August 11th BUT I certainly wouldn't take THAT to the bank.

Contact list to demand an explanation as to why this group feels it is above following the law. -

Carolyn Danese Companion Animal Advisory Board Chairperson

Gail Laberge Companion Animal Advisory Board Vice-Chairperson

Mary Greene phone 404-656-4914

Obviously, this group needs a much more extensive investigation into how it operates and why it seems intent on remaining so secretive.

Reminder - Dep of Ag "Companion Animal Advisory Board" Meeting Sat May 2nd

If your involved in rescue, if you care about puppy mills that seem to skip from one warning to the next, if your concerned about why some shelters still gas, if your concerned about why there isn't any plan for bringing shelters into the same compliance requirements that rescue groups are held to the you really need to show up for Saturday's Dept of Ag's "Animal Advisory Board" meeting.

This meeting will be held at 1:00 PM, 19 Martin Luther King Jr Drive SW, Atlanta, Ga 30334. It's open to the public.

My attempts at getting a copy of the meetings agenda failed despite "open meetings" requirements that the agenda be posted. In fact, it seems that for years now this group has "governed" or offered advise on "governing" for years now bypassing the laws requirements of transparency to the public.

I was able to discover - "I think" that the group is chaired by Carolyn Danese and Co-chaired by AKC's Gail Laberge. This group is critical in moving any statewide agenda that addresses puppy mill enforcement, shelter operations, the gassing issue or a number of other companion animal issues in Georgia. For years it too has been a closely guarded "boys and girls" club that operates at the pleasure of Tommy Irvin. The decisions made here trickle down to bad policies that effect each and every county in the state.

You can read more in my recent expose at:

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Gwinnett AAC Meeting - April 21st - Dog Barking & Tethering Ordinance

The Gwinnett Animal Advisory Council will be meeting April 21st (Tuesday) at 7:00 PM to discuss proposed changes in the county animal ordinance that addresses tethering and nuisance "dog barking". The meeting will be held at the Gwinnett Animal Shelter located at 884 Winder Hwy in Lawrenceville. The public is welcome and encouraged to attend.

The agenda is available at the following link:

A group of concerned pet owners (We the Pet Owners of Gwinnett) offer the following revisions for discussion. Both changes would be enforced as "civil" violations rather then the current practice of being handled as criminal violations. The purpose of the revised law would be to seek compliance through a system of warnings and escalating fines while removing all sentencing provisions which include jail/probation and court ordered loss of pets.

We propose the following:

Changes in restraint/tethering language:

Section 10-29 (b-4) Effective it will be unlawful to tether (chain) your pet unless you are present. Supervised tethering is limited to no more then one hour on/one hour off during daylight hours or thirty minutes during evening hours. In the event a pet is illegally tethered (chained), the pet owner will receive a warning. Failure to take corrective action will result in a civil penalty for cruelty of $100 and a $500 civil penalty for additional offenses.

Changes in public nuisance barking language

Section 10-51 (b) ?? Anyone who keeps or maintains an animal that unreasonably disturbs the comfort or repose of any of any person which are plainly audible to a person of normal hearing ability not located on the same property of the animal or animals because the animal is emitting frequent or long continued sound or noise during the hours of 9:00 PM and 7:00 AM shall be deemed in violation of this section when.

(1) It shall be unlawful for any animal to make, continue or cause to be made or continued any loud, unnecessary or unusual sound or noise which unreasonably annoys, disturbs, injures or endangers the comfort, repose, health, peace or safety of others in the county, and which is audible to a person of normal hearing ability more than 50 feet from the property of origin of this sound or noise.

(2) That the person keeping or maintaining the animal has been first notified in writing by certified mail, return receipt requested, by the complaining party that this animal bird being kept by the addressee is unreasonably disturbing his or her comfort or repose. This section shall be liberally construed to accomplish the objective of the section, and the person making this written notification need not use the exact words of this section to the addressee so long as the notification sufficiently informs the addressee of the nature and times of the disturbing noise emitted by the animal.

(3) Upon receipt of a certified letter notifying the person keeping or maintaining such animal, such person shall be required to comply with this section within 72 hours of such notification.

(4) Upon notification of failure to comply with certified notification of noise complaint concerning such animal noise violations, the owner or individual in possession of the property upon which the animal or animals are located will be given a written notice/warning from Animal Control Unit indicating that such animal or animals are creating a disturbance and advising the owner or individual in possession of the property of some possible solutions to rectify the nuisance. The complainant must provide the officer with a copy of the certified letter sent out that includes the address and where the animals are located along with the time(s) of the offense before any written warning/notice shall be issued.. The owner or individual in possession of the property shall then have ten (10) days to resolve the disturbance.

(5) If the disturbance is not resolved within ten (10) days and the Animal Control Unit receives a second complaint from the original complainant, he or she will be asked to provide a sworn statement documenting the violations. The original complainant will also be required to obtain a sworn statement from another individual of the disturbance. The statements must be from individuals residing at different addresses located near and within hearing distance of the animal or animals creating the disturbance. Upon receipt of the sworn statements, the Animal Control Unit may issue a citation in accordance with the requirements of this ordinance.

(6) Or if the disturbance is not resolved within ten (10) days and the Animal Control Unit receives another complaint from another individual residing at a different address located near and within normal hearing distance of the animal or animals creating the disturbance, both complainants will be asked to provide a sworn statement provided the second complainant has complied with sending a certified letter notifying the person keeping or maintaining such animal. Upon receipt of the sworn statements, the Animal Control Unit may issue a citation in accordance with the requirements of this ordinance.

(7) Animal control officers investigating and enforcing this subsection are not required to measure the noise levels with use of a sound level meter.

(8) The original complaint will remain on file and active for a period of sixty (60) days following the ten (10) day resolution period. If no further complaints are made during the sixty (60) day period, the complaint shall expire and the process begin again.

(9) Upon issuance of a citation, the Animal Control Unit may refer the complainant(s) and the owner or individual in possession of the property upon which the animal or animals creating the disturbance are located to private mediation in an effort to resolve their dispute.

(10) Further complaints or failure to comply with mediation recommendations will result in a citation being issued for owner or individual in possession upon which the animal or animals creating the disturbance to appear in court.

(11) Animal noise complaint will be limited to ONE citation being issued. Penalties for violations under this section 10-27 would be fines of up to $250 for first conviction and up to $500 for any further conviction. Court could order removal of any animal or animals found guilty of a second violation.


These changes are needed to shift the focus to using an educational approach in helping pet owners understand the requirements of being responsible pet owners in the community. Enforcement is shifted to focusing on animal issues that clearly present a danger or adds significantly to the cost of administering animal control. If implemented there will also be a significant reduction in case load through the courts and a reduction in adjudication costs as well.

Rather then tossing a net over all pet owners these changes would focus on enforcing and punishing irresponsible pet owners in the county. Ultimately, the goal of any proactive animal ordinance should seek to reduce the number of pets that enter our shelter and not add to those intake numbers.

Your comments, of course are welcome.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Georgia Animal Control Association lack of unified opposition to gassing

The Georgia Animal Control Association was founded in June of 1987 by concerned Animal Control Personnel from across the state of Georgia. The sole purpose was to form an organization in which animal control personnel - whether management, shelter worker, or field worker - would have a support system, informational center and training agency to address related needs of Georgia's animal control agencies.

Historically, the Georgia Animal Control Association (GACA) has been filled with shelter's that are opposed to or have poor partnerships with the rescue community, fail to implement offsite adoptions, enforce failed pet limit laws, lack any meaningful free or low cost spay/neuter programs and appear to be completely unaware of the other innovative programs which have proven to cause a decline in killing. The blind follows the blind down a path of control that knows only how to kill.

Animal shelter reform isn't only about how shelter's kill off society's homeless pets but why we can't seek out the alternatives.

Killing our companion animals is preventable, killing is a tragedy and there is still too much of it going on in Georgia's Animal Shelters. How we reduce that killing from it's current levels and make sure that any killing is done in a humane and compassionate manner is nothing less than a dishonest and disgraceful writing of our animal welfare history.

Georgia Animal Control Association Mission

Stopping the senseless slaughter in our animal shelters starts with leadership. Leadership in our animal control industry that is sourly lacking. The leaders of the "animal control industry" have to provide the leadership to give shelters and their communities the tools they need to succeed. Instead, all they promote is an enforcement mentality that blames the public for the killing rather then address the root causes that feed the killing frenzy.

Policy that focuses on a "legislation, education, and sterilization” (LES) mandate that blames the public for the mass and senseless killing rather then taking the lead to prevent it.

LES remains nothing but a failure.

First, LES DOES NOT put any responsibility onto the shelters that are actually doing the killing, nor does it question if a shelter’s own actions are causing increases in shelter death rates (as indeed many are).

Second, it takes the onus off of poorly performing shelters by blaming the public for shelter failures that are themselves animal cruelty centers.

Third, it does not question the perceived need to kill.

Fourth, the "plan" focuses only on how efficient and cost effective that killing can be rather then on focusing on preventative programs that have demonstrated success in stopping it.

Finally, it promotes punitive legislation—such as cat licensing, leash laws, limit laws and mandatory spay/neuter, nuisance animals on threat of citation and impound—which not only diverts resources away from lifesaving programs to bureaucratic enforcement, but leads to increases in killing in those very same shelters which the laws are passed.

Georgia Animal Shelters - A State of Crisis Control

The need for a clearing house of progressive information is critical. Many of Georgia's animal shelters in a state of absolute disarray. They operate under sub-standard conditions and lack a unified plan for reducing high kill rates. The foundation of a unified plan is the formation of a partnership between the animal shelter and the rescue community. Working as partners, they can successfully build a more humane shelter system that both minimizes companion animal deaths and insures a truly humane euthanasia when there are no other options.

There simply is no acceptable explanation why, despite overwhelming public opposition to gassing shelter pets, a few facilities in Georgia persist in ending pets’ lives in torturous, inhumane, outmoded, unregulated and unsafe gas chambers. Instead of addressing the abuses that gassing includes we are left with lifetime of excuses why gassing must continue.

House Bill 606 and its Senate counterpart, SB 232, would have closed the loopholes that allow several Georgia counties and cities to continue using animal gas chambers. Had they passed, humane lethal injection or oral ingestion of sodium pentobarbital would have been the only method of euthanasia allowed statewide. The bills also would have prohibited the cruel method of heartstick except on unconscious or comatose animals in certain situations.

Yet, the Georgia Animal Control Association (GACA) failed miserably to "unify” in support of bringing all shelters into compliance with citizens’ wishes. Since the vast majority of previously gassing animal shelters in Georgia have ceased the practice, there simply is no good reason for the remaining gassing shelters to cling to this barbaric method of killing animals.

There is clear evidence that shelters still using the gas chamber do so without proof of exception. Worse yet, they offer no excuses for operating illegally and do so with an air of arrogance. Worst of all, their illegal actions are protected by the very state agency charged with the responsibility of “Animal Protection”. All of these factors raise serious quality of care issues in gassing shelters and indicate a gross lack of compassion for the suffering of animals entrusted to their care.

Killing by gas is not only wrong, it is a state-sanctioned act of animal cruelty committed on an innocent, sentient being who deserves much better.

Meet the Georgia Animal Control Association's
Board of Directors

President - Tommy Condrey from Metter County email:

Vice President - Regina Wells - Tift County, Tifton:

Secretary/Treasurer - Cindy Weimann - City of Madison Animal Control:

District 1 - Past President Glenda Ott - Cobb County, Marietta: Cobb County is in violation of the court order for illegally installing a gas chamber in 1995.

District 2 - Past President Bobby King - Toccoa/Stephens County. Officer Bobby King recently won the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Georgia Animal Control Association despite Toccoa/Stephens being one of the few shelters that still allows shelter dogs to be sent out to research. Phone 706) 282-3275

District 2 - Steven Eades - Barrow County - Phone 770) 307-3012

District 3 - Robert Ellington - Thomaston Police Department:

District 3 - Henry Freeman - Cowetta County, Newnan Phone 770-254-3736

District 4 - Christine Tillman - Putnam County, Eatonton

District 5 - Connie Easn Collins - Evans County, Claxton

District 5 - George Smith - SCMPD Animal Control, Savannah Phone 912-652-6575

District 6 - Rebecca Bruner - Tift County, Tifton

District 7 - Oscar Hulett - Jeff Davis County, Hazelhurst

Conference Classes: Georgia Animal Control Association

On March 5th and 6th 2009, GACA sponsored a workshop on "Animals and the Law". The course outline focused on enforcing animal cruelty laws, but there was an obvious disconnect regarding gassing shelters who are in effect committing egregious acts of animal cruelty.

Key speakers for the workshop included persons in leadership positions with the Department of Agriculture and/or members of the Department’s "Companion Animal Advisory Board". These speakers were well-positioned to garner support for legislation aimed at ending this inhumane method of killing in our state's shelters, yet they failed miserably to do so.

Companion Animal Rights Movement - lack of action - lack of a unified plan

One keynote speaker who missed a golden opportunity to encourage support for banning gas chambers was Claudine Wilkins, a founder of Georgia Legal Professionals for Animals (GLPA) and who represents Best Friends "No More Homeless Pets" in Georgia.

The web site for GLPA states their opposition to gas chambers and although Ms. Wilkins does not represent GLPA, as an attorney, she would have been more qualified than most speakers to address some of the language issues of HB 606 and SB 232 that were raised by animal control personnel in attendance. Furthermore, these issues should have been discussed and resolved during her actual presentation.

On the second day of the workshop, Cheryl McAuliffe, Georgia Director of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), delivered an update on current animal legislation pending in both the House and the Senate. Again, pulling the plug on all gas chambers in Georgia shelters should have been the centerpiece for discussion by HSUS and - yet, the GACA still failed to come to an agreement supporting these critical bills. This writer suggests that it is this failure that all but sealed HB 606 and SB 232 to be declared "dead on arrival" only days later.

Carolyn Danese, President of the Humane Association of Georgia (HAGA), was the next speaker and she too covered state legislative initiatives. It is unconscionable that HAGA would take a neutral position on such critical legislation that would effectively put an end to this cruel method of killing our state's animals.

The third and final speaker of day two's seminar was none other then the head of Animal Protection in Georgia - the Department of Ag's Mary Greene. Not only has the Department of Ag thumbed their noses to the will of the people but they are in violation of a court order that requires them to enforce the laws concerning licensing and inspections of some of the most egregious gas chambers that are STILL killing our innocent homeless pets.

If we can not count on the leadership of groups like the Humane Society of the United States, the Georgia Legal Professionals for Animals, the Humane Association of Georgia and the Georgia Animal Control Association to UNIFY against ALL forms of animal cruelty, especially when those acts are being conducted in publicly funded shelters, with a "wink" of protectionist approval from the Department of Agriculure's "Animal Protection Division", then we have a much bigger problem in protecting ALL of our sentinel beings as opposed to just those were it is convenient in doing so.

An act of animal cruelty committed by the public is no different when committed by a thoughtless shelter policy that ignores the pain and suffering these creatures endure only to be discarded in the nearest landfill. Some might suggest the later is more egregious since it is conducted by those who take an oath to uphold ALL the laws that protect animals from this suffering.

We can not effectively adopt our way out of a killing mentality without a formidable plan. This plan will require more people willing to adopt from a shelter. To be successful a comprehensive adoption program includes public access hours (in the evening and on weekends) when working people and families with children, our most sought after adopter demographics, can visit the shelter. To truly be effective shelters must be transformed from "killing centers" to pet friendly shelters that the public feels comfortable in visiting.

The public WILL NOT visit and adopt from shelters in the numbers necessary to save rather then destroy adoptable pets IF they are gassing shelters. The public simply lacks the stomach needed to condone this act of cruelty under the excuses that allow it to continue.

Lowering the slaughter numbers requires shelters that organize offsite adoption locations in their communities. Locations where people live, work, and play, not the county landfill where they dump their garbage. Not the county detention center where they house sex offenders.

Many of Georgia's animal shelters are located in these remote "dual function" locations and thus effectively kill off any adoption prospects that might be possible.

Building an adoption program in the community good responsive customer service; fair, but not overly bureaucratic, adoption screening; clean facilities; a good socialization and care program so that animals are happy and healthy, and more. When all these programs are comprehensively and rigorously in place, the shelter makes it easy to do the right thing, and experience has shown that the public does.

Only then can the advertising campaign leverage people’s love of animals, and their desire to bring about an end to the killing, an end to the gassing to its full potential.

Here is a list of counties or cities still using the outmoded gas chamber in Georgia. If most Georgia counties and cities can use EBI, why can't they all? An attached study based on North Carolina shelters proves EBI is less expensive and also doesn't carry the risk of danger to workers. So why keep costly gas chambers?

1. Ashburn, City of (in Turner County; no county facility; chamber housed in City of Ashburn.)
2. Barnesville, (City of) Animal Shelter (In Lamar County; no county facility; chamber housed in City of Barnesville.)
3. Butts County Animal Control
4. Cordele, City of (In Crisp County)
5. Cuthbert, City of (In Randolph County; no county facility; chamber housed in City of Cuthbert.)
6. Haralson County Animal Shelter
7. Hawkinsville, City of (In Pulaski County; no county facility.
8. Henry County Animal Control
9. Lakeland, City of (In Lanier County; no county facility.)
10. Macon, City of (In Bibb County; no county facility; chamber operated in City of Macon, under the jurisdiction of Macon Police Animal Control. Macon City Council voted unanimously June 2008 to cease using chamber by July 1, 2009.)
11. Mitchell County Animal Control
12. Spalding County Animal Shelter
13. Vienna, City of Animal Shelter (in Dooly County; no county facility)
14. Warner Robins (In Houston County; no county facility)

UNITED FOR PROGRESS" is a prophetic overview of what can and will be when all Animal Control/Animal Care Personnel come together in one mind and one accord to become professionals in this vocation.

To visit GACA's web site:

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Georgia Department of Ag - Companion Animal Advisory Board

The bill, H.B. 606 and it's Senate counterpart SB 232, would have shut the loopholes that allow several Georgia counties and cities to continue to use animal gas chambers. The bill would also have prohibited heartstick except on unconscious or comatose animals in certain situations and mandate humane lethal injection or oral ingestion of sodium pentobarbital as the only means of euthanasia allowed throughout the state of Georgia.

The Georgia House Livestock, Poultry and Aquaculture Subcommittee and Senate Agriculture Committee, both heard testimony on HB 606 and SB 232 respectively with no vote taken by either committee, meaning the bill remains pending and will be taken up next year.

Attorneys Rebecca Guinn, Director of Lifeline Animal Project, and Steve Shi, as well as veterinarian Dr. Will Mangham, testified in support of the bill. Linda Cordry, an animal control officer from Liberty County and Rabbi Schlesinger from Macon, also urged passage of the bill.

Cindy Wiemann, representing the GA Animal Control Association, did not oppose the bill but whose group took a neutral position on the bill and asked for an exception that would allow the immediate euthanasia in an emergency of a dangerous or diseased animal or one suffering irremediably. Sponsors were prepared to offer such an amendment.

Senate Committee Chairperson Sen. John Bulloch and House Subcommittee Chairperson Rep. Gene Maddox decided not to allow a vote. The bills were only recently introduced and more time is needed to persuade legislators and obtain important cost information.

For all practical purposes both bills were "Dead on Arrival" because they lacked the support of Tommy Irvin's Animal Protection Unit which would be charged with enforcing the new proposals. Too much emphasis has been placed on a top down approach in lobbying support for passage of anti-gassing legislation without understanding the concepts of developing a "groundswell" of support from the bottom up.

Breakthrough thinking that moves away from a trickle down approach to solving our animal shelter reform issues by attacking from the top needs to shift to a lobbying effort that brings support to change from the bottom up. Those on the top levels of the animal shelter pyramid are not as likely to relinquish the power and control that the status quo offers. Animal advocates need to change the thinking of advocates "in the trenches" which prevent breakthrough thinking from succeeding. That effort must come from the bottom up.

Tommy Irvins "Companion Animal Advisory Board"

One such group that continues to impede passage of the much needed anti-gassing legislation is Tommy Irvin's own "Companion Animal Advisory Board" - read on....

The Companion Animal Advisory Board of the Georgia Department of Agriculture was established by Commissioner Tommy Irvin on March 25, 1997. Irvin created the advisory board because the "companion animal industry had experienced phenomenal growth over the years that makes a tremendous impact on the economy of Georgia.” That statement alone is a telling story as to why the Department of Agriculture under Irvin's helm has such a dismal record on animal protection issues including cracking down on substandard breeders and pet stores with a history of complaints and has allowed many of the county animal shelters to use the horrible abusive gas chambers in killing off "excess" pets.

A pair of bills that would have outlawed the gas chamber for stray animals won’t be going anywhere this year. House Bill 606 and Senate Bill 232 would both outlaw the practice, which is currently used in Macon, statewide. Advocates say it's inhumane, that animals suffer when Carbon Monoxide is used to gas them, and that sometimes they don't even die. They would prefer lethal injections, but that can be more expensive, since doses have to be administered one at a time. However, there is empirical data that prove EBI is less expensive to administer than properly operated gas chambers.

From a technical standpoint, House bill 606 did not die in committee, but committee's failure to allow an honest hearing, allow for debate on the issues outlawing gassing and call for a vote killed the chances of closing gas chambers by traditional legislative process for but another year. In reality, this bill was "dead on arrival" because of the lack of support from Georgia's Department of Agriculture's Animal Advisory Board (AAB) and indirectly from a neutral position taken by the Georgia Animal Control Association.

True Animal Advocates don't let friends gas our pets.....

"These animals howl, they scream, they cough, they scratch to try to get out," said Linda Cordry, of Liberty County. One dog that survived the process in Liberty County came out "alive, covered in (vomit), fecal matter and urine," she said.

LInda's right, gassing an innocent dog or cat is a horrible method to end its life, but unfortunately Linda would never be considered for a position on Irvin's AAB. To be nominated for one of those prestigious positions, you have to be invited. Who does the inviting? Well, Tommy of course. Those who may enter this "political arena" with ideals of "advocating for animals" quickly learn that to stay in this exclusive club you must be willing to "adapt" to the reason the AAB was created - that reason is to support the phenomenal growth of the companion animal industry.

Meet the Board of OUR Department of Agriculture's Animal Advisory Board

All of the information I am about to release was obtained through an open records request with the Department of Agriculture's Animal Protection unit. It is NOT available in any transparent form, including meeting dates, times and location, on the Department of Agriculture's website. Since this information is considered public record I will share it, along with my personal comments based on the investigation I completed.

From the bylaws of the AAB, all twenty members are appointed by Commissioner Irvin. All board members serve "at the pleasure of the commissioner" and may be reappointed annually. This single line clearly illustrates why any opposition to Irvin would have a detrimental effect on remaining on the board.

Make up of the Companion Animal Advisory Board

My investigation thus far has only uncovered background information on eighteen of the twenty members. They are (along with email addresses):

Ruth Tracy-Blackburn - Chairperson - Ruth is a successful business woman running her grandfather’s pecan business (hence a long time friend of Tommy Irvin) and has a passion for advocating for animals.

Animal activist Ruth Tracy-Blackburn claims "animal control officers are unsung heroes" and yet remains silent on the issue of allowing shelter employees to continue gassing. Compassionate animal control officers know firsthand the suffering animals endure in gassing shelters. “Richmond and Columbia counties are so fortunate to have animal control facilities. People can sit there and criticize them all day long, but it's the people's fault the animals are out there,'' said Ms. Blackburn, Vice-President of McDuffie County Friends of Animals.

E-mail Ruth at and ask her to tell her friend Tommy Irvin that "friends of animals don't let heroes in animal control gas innocent companion animals.

Bill Garrett has been a long time member of the AAB with a tenure that pre-dates his role in running the Fulton County Slaughterhouse. Garrett is the past President of the Atlanta Humane Society and Society For Prevention Of Cruelty To Animals, Inc. Garrett is now a trustee for the Hall County Humane Society.

Atlanta Humane Society took in close to $5.9 Million dollars in donations in 2007 against $4.4 Million in operating expenses netting an astounding $1.4 Million in profits. According to Guidestar, this resulted in AHS accumulating over $30 Million in assets at the close of the year (2007). Yet, there mission statement used to drag in these donations is "To Prevent neglect, abuse, cruelty and exploitation of animals and to assure that their interests and well being are fully, effectively and humanely protected by an aware and caring society."

Shouldn't some of that donated money be used to lobby for preventing cruelty and exploitation of animals in Georgia's gassing shelters? In a caring society, don't these animals deserve the same humane protection against state sanctioned acts of cruel and abusive policies?

During the changing of the guard in Fulton County's own nightmarish rein of terror, one of the few supporters of Garrett's leadership at AHS and its role in Fulton County was Carolyn Danese, founder of the Humane Association of Georgia.

Garrett's political connections include Govenor Sonny Perdue who awarded Garrett the distinguished rank of "Colonel in the Georgia State Militia" in 2006. Email Bill at russelleva@bellsouth,com and ask him to talk with his friend Carolyn and assure her that gassing animals simply because of a shortage of euthanasia drugs ten years ago isn't a good enough reason for humane friends of animals to allow gassing to continue.

Richard Rice left his position as the Humane Society of United States Regional Director shortly after the failed Katrina Rescue Operation for his current post with the Atlanta Humane Society where he is Director of Operations. Joining Richard is Carl Leveridge who left Peggy Adams to become President of AHS. Both come from strong national animal "rights " organizations which should actively oppose gassing as a barbaric and inhumane method of ending any companion animal’s life, yet, their silence on this issue is deafening.

Email Richard at or call him at 404-974-2828 and tell him that you expect him to actively support enforcing the courts orders banning the use of gas in Georgia shelters and holding the Irvin's Department of Agriculture accountable. Remind him and Carl Leveridge that "Friends of Animals" do not donate to animal rights groups that look the other way while shelters in Georgia continue to abuse the law. Tell Richard that you expect him to fully support passage of House Bill 606 and Senate Bill 232. Carl can be contacted by email at or call 404-974-2888.

Edwina Barnes is listed President and founder for the Humane Association of Georgia and yet, Carolyn Danese is also claims to be President and founder of HAGA. Humane Association of Georgia, Inc., is a nonprofit organization advocating humane treatment for all living things.

From to the HAGA website "We encourage strong legislation for animals at all levels of government. We encourage and support cooperation among the animal protection community, the veterinary community, government agencies and the general public."

When the Board of the Humane Association of Georgia (HAGA) was asked to discuss gas chambers, Carolyn Danese wrote in a "white paper" on gassing , "We prefer to focus on decreasing the number of animals killed." Much of that focus is on seeking donations and participating in the state's funds generated from spay/neuter speciality tag.

Yet, when given the opportunity to support a state wide ban on gassing animals HAGA seems only concerned about not running out of "blue juice".

Danese explains, "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 HAGA position on gassing suggests that 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.

You can contact Carolyn Danese at . Edwina Barnes can be reached at . Tell them that "humane friends of animals believe EACH and EVERY companion animal’s life is scared and deserves respect, especially when society "chooses" to end that pet’s life.” Her position on gas chambers is out of touch with those shared by animal advocates throughout the state. WE expect their role is to advocate for companion animals and not to be an excuse maker for Irvin's Department of Agriculture.

Gail Laberge holds a number of titles. Gail is the founder and president of the Georgia Canine Coalition (GCC), on the Board of Directors of the American Kennel Club as the legislative liaison, Chair for Gwinnett County's Animal Advisory Council and past president for the Lawrenceville Kennel Club. The Georgia Canine Coalition mission is to support fair legislation governing animal abuse and neglect, yet, in theory the very kennel groups that the AKC, kennel clubs and breeders represent compete directly with "used/defective" shelters dogs in the marketplace.

The Georgia Canine Coalition has no interest in increasing "market share" for "used/defective" shelter dogs at the expense of those seeking to market puppies - how the shelters kill off the excess is of little consequence.

"A 'legislative superstar,' Gail has spent years working with Georgia officials to make sure that the interests of purebred dog owners are well represented," said Noreen Baxter, AKC 's VP of Communications.

Maurice Woolfe, a breeder from Buford, is also a board member of the GCC and past member of Gwinnett's Animal Advisory Council. It is unclear what educational prospective Woolfe brings to this committee.

The Georgia Canine Coalition opposed HB1060 in 2008 because it defined a public shelter agency as “any facility operated by or under contract with the state or any political subdivision of the state for the purpose of impounding or harboring seized, stray, homeless, abandoned or unwanted animals. Such term shall include any veterinarian or veterinary clinic which operates for such purpose in addition to its customary practice.”

The GCC had serious concerns with this bill as it was written and therefore opposed it. Of course, how many veterinary clinics are there that "impound or seize stray, homeless, abandoned or unwanted animals AND own and run a gassing facility as part of its customary practice?” I suggest that the GCC's opposition is more intuned with their lack of concern over the fate of shelter dogs in general. You can email Gail at , Maurice Woolfe has no contact information.

Bonnie Turner is listed as a current member of the companion animal board but a Bonnie Turner was killed in Floyd County by a tornado in 2008. In 2005, Gail LaBerge of Buford , Georgia , received the AKC Community Achievement Award for her efforts defending and protecting the interests of the canine community. Bonnie Turner wrote in her nominating letter, "Gail LaBerge is a tireless and extremely effective defender of the rights of dog owners in the state of Georgia." Turner, a board member of the Georgia Canine Coalition, continued, "Her efforts have earned her the respect of local and state officials, and a reputation as an advocate for fair and reasonable legislation as it relates to the state's breeders, kennels and pet owners."

Neil Bates, Alpharetta breeder with the AKC, contact .

Mike Miller, DVM, is affiliated with the Duluth Animal Hospital. My guess is Miller, Woolfe and Laberge, all from the Buford area, are interconnected. You can write Dr. Mike and ask him to OPPOSE gassing in Georgia shelters at

Dr George McCommon, is an associate professor of veternary science and City of Macon's veternarian in charge of the Macon Shelter. He did NOT support the recently passed resolution that will end gassing in Macon in June of 2009.

His support of gassing is perplexing especially with his impressive resume that seems to support his opposition to animal cruelty.

When associate professor of veterinary science George McCommon gathered with representatives from the state's Department of Agriculture, GEMA, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to mingle with extension agents and local and state politicians in the first of its kind Georgia Emergency Management Conference McCommon stated "People (and animals) are very vulnerable to any hazard — natural or man-made, when a tornado or hurricane hits, it’s imperative to maintain safe plant life, animals and food. To that end, the workshop is expected to focus on topics from media relations to animal protection."

Yet, McCommon fails to see the correlation of protecting companion animals "from the man made disaster of being slaughtered in the state's antiquated and inhumane gas chambers.

“The state of Georgia has been proactive when it comes to animal health and agriculture in general,” McCommon said. “Georgia is trying to stay ahead of the ball.”

Georgia remains one of the few states that clings to the ancient technology of primitive and non functioning gas chambers

Macon's policy of gassing animals is not the only quality of care issue that has dogged the city run shelter for years. It is disheartening to consider that despite all of McCommon's educational training he has failed to offer any suggestions that might/would improve the plight of Macon's homeless pets. It is simply not reasonable to suggest that mass killing and disposing of unwanted pets is acceptable shelter policy.

District Attorney Kim Schwartz (Bibb County) has hinted that Dr. McCommon had threatened to quit being the City of Macon's vet because of the recent attacks on the City's practices.... that he "does the job because no one else will do it" because he has a genuine interest in caring for the shelter animals. Yet, there is no evidence to support his complaints. In order for real change to happen in Macon perhaps his resignation would allow for improvement to take hold. A lack of change is manifested when good ideas are ignored but more importantly when those who settle for poor standards are allowed to fester.

McCommon's unwillingness to publicly oppose Macon's antiquated gas chamber is equally troubling as a board member of Irvins AAB. If he supports gassing in Macon, then he supports the failed policies of the department of ag in failing to enforce the law on shelters that use gas chambers.

Steve Zerelli represents the Pet Company. Is there any wonder why the Department of Agriculture allows the pet store industry to operate with little or no oversight?

In effect, Tommy Irvin's departmental policies all but support the puppy mill industry and it's tremendous growth potential. This is reflected in the dismal record that the Department of Ag has on enforcing and closing down substandard puppy mills as well. The puppy mill trade flourishes throughout the state of Georgia, in flea markets and in Nickelson type mass breeding farms. Obviously, the Pet Company could care less about gassing animals in Georgia shelters. Until the Department of Ag sets policies and enforces reasonable breeding standards killing off the excess is simply a product of theiur onw malfeasonance. Those changes won't happen on Zerelli's watch. If you’re inclined to contact Steve Zerelli, he can be reached at

Claudine Wilkins is the founder of the Georgia Legal Professionals for Animals. Georgia Legal Professionals for Animals, Inc. (GLPA) is a non-profit corporation comprised of professionals who espouse an ethical and moral precept which maintains that animals are sentient beings, with a capacity for pain and suffering and an intrinsic right to their own lives.

She is also legislative council for Best Friends, and will be one of the speakers at the No Kill Conference: Bringing Sheltering into the 21st Century, happening May 2-3 in Washington, D.C.

The No Kill Advocacy Center is teaming up with the animal law program at George Washington University Law School.

The conference features both a shelter/rescue track and a legal track, though attendees can attend workshops in both areas. “Both tracks are important”, says Claudine Wilkins, legislative council for Best Friends, who will be one of the speakers at the conference. “You have to have the public drive and awareness and the legal advancements for real change to happen for animals,” Wilkins says.

Conference workshops will cover a wide variety of current topics, including rehabilitating and adopting dogs and cats with special needs; harnessing community compassion; reforming animal control; overcoming internal obstacles to success; legislating no-kill; rethinking dangerous dogs; legislating and litigating an end to puppy mills; and protecting free-roaming cats and their caregivers. What it won't be covering is why Georgia continues to gas out of the stone age year after year.

The Georgia Legal Professionals for Animals took a position opposing gassing on their website and yet, failed to address the house committee when the gassing bill died in committee. You can e-mail Claudine at to ask her what it's going to take to get the Department of Agriculture to abide by the court ruling that upheld the ban on gassing.

Betty Crawford represents the Rescue League in Atlanta Georgia. Betty appears to be the token representative for all of Georgia's rescue groups. Her contact is

Donna Strickland, is the executive director for the Albany Humane Society. Their mission statement claims, "We speak for those who can't speak for themselves". Each year, Albany Humane responds to hundreds of requests to investigate the possible pain and unnecessary suffering of animals. Their efforts are far-reaching: dogs, cats, horses, rabbits, deer, pigs, chickens, goats, to name a few... have all received care at our shelter.

Clearly, speaking out against the horribly cruel use of gas chambers is the only hope for the thousands of voiceless pets that are killed in Georgia's gassing shelters each year. Ask Donna to speak to Tommy about putting an end to state mandated acts of animal cruelty - Georgia's shelters should be better then that. Her contact info is

Miguel Abi-Hassan, having worked in animal welfare in Venezuela, Ohio, and Florida, is the Director of Animal Control in Fayette County. His lifetime of experience with animals and degrees in animal welfare and industrial psychology are put to good use. You can reach Miguel at Ask him to use his influence to end the use of gas in Georgia shelters.

Grace Woodford runs Dog House Kennel and Grooming in Newnan. Polite e-mails to Grace can be sent to . Ask Grace to support passing HB 606 and put an end to the cruelty of killing shelter animals with gas.

Vanessa Sims-Green ( ) and Mary Greene, Animal Protection Manager ( ), are both non-voting members of Irvin's Companion Animal Advisory Board. They serve in an advisory and leadership capacity and have a voice in the deliberations, but no vote.

My investigation was unable to identify two members, a Chuck Corley ( ), and Sherrie Miller ( )- anyone with information can forward that to me.

The Companion Animal Advisory Board meets four times a year at a time and a place determined by the chair and the Animal Protection Manager. Special meetings may be requested by the chair, by a majority of the Board members, or by the department.

The next scheduled meeting is scheduled to be held on May 2nd at 1:00 PM, 19 Martin Luther King Jr Drive SW, Atlanta, Ga 3033. For further information,contact Mary Greene.

Anyone who represents an animal advocacy group and who thinks it's appropriate to let these shelters continue to gas for another year or two or more is failing to acknowledge the severity of what is wrong about gas chambers. Tommy Irvin has never directly stated his reasons for not opposing/supporting the gassing of shelter pets. After all, as a reasonable man should he not have a reason, shouldn't he?

This research builds a foundation of the interesting relationships between the anti-players who work towards blocking any attempts in changing Georgia's few remaining gassing shelters. We need to convince a majority of these players to join our side in supporting HB 606 and SB 232 in the 2010 legislative session. The bills may have been "killed" for now, but the groundswell of opposition lives on with a determined group of compassionate animal advocates that know killing innocent and defenseless homeless pets in such a cruel and in humane manner is simply not acceptable public policy.

Please explain to the animals who are being gassed this week, next week, next month, next year...who are "dead forever”, that we are working on getting the bill just right, then we'll help them.

Next, the role Georgia Animal Control Association has in keeping the status quo....

Permission to cross post

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Uno the Beagle not welcome in Gwinnett County

Uno the Beagle not welcome in Gwinnett County

America loves a hero. For many dog loving American's Uno the beagle, who won Best in Show last year, is that hero. Uno captured the hearts of America during his celebrity tour that included the first-ever White House visit by a Westminster winner. When his victory was announced Uno's howls of joy were only drowned out by the passionate response from the crowd who cheered his victory.

Uno's year started the day after he won, when he went to Sardi's for the winner's traditional plate of strip steak. He also made the rounds on a host of television shows delighting audiences with his cheerful personality.

Since then he's spent an hour with Texas Gov. Rick Perry. He rode with Snoopy, America's other most famous beagle, in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. He threw out the first pitch at Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals baseball games. Well, okay, he fetched the first pitch.

Uno rang the bell to open the NASDAQ stock exchange and spent his third birthday visiting the commander and chief, President George Bush in the White House. Laura Bush gave Uno a red-white-and-blue collar and lead as a birthday present. The famous hound also got a chance to play with 270 school kids and Girl Scouts. Later, he visited injured GIs at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Now retired, Uno is a certified therapy dog who visits Ronald McDonald Houses around the country. "Uno has a wonderful personality and temperament," said Westminster Director of Communications David Frei and TV host for USA and CNBC, who added, "I've been doing this for 20 years and have never seen a dog that the public responded to like Uno."

According to a November 26, 2008 article in the International Herald Tribune Americas, the Global Edition of the New York Times, Uno has had a busy year.
Uno had a day declared in his honor in his home state of Illinois

Uno met the family of Peanuts comic strip creator, Charles Schultz. The comic character, Snoopy, was Uno’s ink-on-paper beagle forebear.

Uno appears to love the applause and the attention heaped on him and people seem to relate to him as a type of underdog champion.

While Uno was welcomed by the White House for his accomplishments it is ironic is that his howls of joy and excitement would be in violation of this county's ordinance on nuisance barking.

If Uno or any of his champion "brood" ever decided to visit Gwinnett our county's ordinance would consider any barking exuberance of more then five times for thirty seconds would be a violation of county code. One is left to wonder whether laws written to condemn dogs like Uno are written to make prosecuting and convicting dogs like Uno rather then written advocating to assure their safety in the community.

The owner of the property Uno was visiting could be cited, pay up to a thousand dollars in fine, face six months in jail and if the animal rights attorney was inclined have Uno seized and become the property of the county governments animal shelter.

While the issue of dog's barking more then five times for thirty seconds is what a vast majority of dogs do - after all they are dogs, an ordinance of this nature will be viewed as a first of it's kind that specifically criminalize owning beagles.

Here's what the Humane Society of the United States says about traits common in beagles.

Surrender: “During my years in rescue work, the most common reason for surrender I heard was that the beagle’s barking was causing trouble with the neighbors.”
Adoption: “If a potential adopter is considering a beagle, they need to accept that beagles bark. Beagles love to bark so much that I am convinced they soon forget why they started barking and just continue to bark for the sheer enjoyment of it. A potential adopter should know that their prospective new family member will be a vocal one.

As a long time owner and advocate for beagles in our community I'm convinced too that beagles bark simply because they can. Anyone who has had the pleasure of being owned by a beagle knows that they are fiercely stubborn in their ways, have an attention span of a gnat, and follow their nose to wherever and whatever direction it takes them.

Of all the real crime issues in Gwinnett, an explosive growth in drug trafficking, illegal immigration and gang violence, the beagles are the only criminal element which have successfully visited the white house - doesn't that say something about the county's mixed up priorities?

Friday, March 27, 2009

AJC - Dog lover agrees to stay away from witnesses against him

If ever there was proof of why Gwinnett County's policy of prosecuting animal ordinances under criminal code this latest run around with the county proves that point. My efforts with bringing a city official's property into compliance with the provisions of the homestead exemption were responded to with threats from the county seeking to have my probation revoked for the balance of the remaining seventeen months.

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

The most basic component of freedom of expression is the right of freedom of speech. The right to freedom of speech allows individuals to express themselves without interference or constraint by the government. The Supreme Court requires the government to provide substantial justification for the interference with the right of free speech where it attempts to regulate the content of the speech. The Supreme Court has also recognized that the government may prohibit some speech that may cause a breach of the peace or cause violence.

The right to free speech includes other mediums of expression that communicates a message. These communication medians include writing private emails, blog postings and the issue of information distributed to the media.

Democracy in it's purest form is supposed to be messy.

If this elected official was sincere in correcting what was an "honest oversight" then why not just pay the tax and move on? Instead, this became a court case where I would have argued my rights under the first amendment in seeking repayment of ALL the unpaid taxes on this property. While the city official has little choice but to pay the last three years of illegally claimed homestead exemptions what remains unclear is his commitment to volunteer payment for 2004 and 2005 as well.

Those of us who pay our property taxes and who understand we face reduced services and tax increases as Gwinnett tries to balance the county's fiscal budget expect that everyone pays their fair share. I have never questioned this city officials right to comment on my dogs I have questioned his judgment in making tax and spending decisions in his current public position for which he was elected. Someone who doesn't understand the tax codes, who seems confused on the role the first amendment plays in a citizens right to open and transparent government clearly and who apparently doesn't share my views on the role of the family pet in our community is not someone I would endorse or vote for to protect ALL the citizens interest in his community.

Meanwhile, I will continue to advocate for changing the way Gwinnett County deals with the animal ordinances by having them enforced as civil violations. With the exception of animal cruelty, animal neglect, dog fighting and the dangerous dog provisions all of the remaining issues pertaining to animal ownership should be handled under the civil statutes - which includes allowing those accused to simply mail in their ticket and pay a reasonable fine (like a driving offense) as opposed to adding to the docket of Gwinnett's Recorders Court.

The bottom line is NO PET OWNER should risk losing their freedom simply because of an innocuous act of their pet misbehaving. AS a voter who votes to protect his family's interest (that includes my family of hounds) those are the principles of democracy that I will continue to speak out for.

To read the entire article (comments welcome)

see below

Dog lover agrees to stay away from witnesses against him

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Dog lover Randy DeCarlo has agreed to a consent order to have no contact with any of the six witnesses who helped put him on probation for violating Gwinnett County’s noise-nuisance ordinance.

The order, signed Wednesday, modifies DeCarlo’s terms of probation and allows him to stay out of jail.
DeCarlo had faced up to $24,000 in fines, 12 years in prison, and possibly losing all of his 25 dogs when he went to court last year. Instead, he was placed on supervised probation for two years.

DeCarlo said he was being dragged into court because witnesses alleged he had harassed them since his original case.

Wednesday’s consent order may put a halt to DeCarlo’s recent public campaign against Lilburn City Councilman Eddie Price, one of the witnesses at his hearing. DeCarlo has pointed out at public meetings that the councilman and his wife had recently been assessed back taxes for a homestead exemption on a piece of rental property near DeCarlo’s rural Lilburn home.

Records from the county assessor’s office show that as a result of an anonymous tip received Feb. 25, an audit was performed on the property, and bills for three years were sent out totaling $1,786.86.

Price said there was no deception intended. The house is not in his name. It belonged, he said, to his wife before they were married and was paid for through an escrow account. After the marriage, he said, no one thought to go into the escrow account and change it.

“When that was brought to my attention,” Price said, “we immediatley called the county and said, ‘Hey, he’s right. She should have had this removed, please remove it and figure out what we owe you.’ “

As for DeCarlo, he wants off supervised probation.

“Since the day of the trial, I’ve made a commitment to comply with the order of the court to make sure my dogs didn’t cause any problem in the neighborhood, and that hasn’t happened,” he said.

To read the entire article and comment

Friday, March 20, 2009

CNN Drug Dealers Hound Gwinnett

For a county so concerned about barking dogs......for a county that invested countless hours in finding new ways to criminalize dog barking....guess what?

Mexican drug cartels thrive in suburban Gwinnett
City outpaces all others in the United States in drug-related cash seizures $30 million has been confiscated in Atlanta this fiscal year Location, proximity to other cities and highways cited in trafficking growth.

Drug dealers "hide in plain sight" in suburban Gwinnett County in an eiry silence the only sounds being gun shots from random drug violence.....

By Lateef Mungin

ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- Oscar Reynoso owed his bosses $300,000, and he was running out of time.

One anti-drug operation in Atlanta netted $10.6 million, 108 kilos of cocaine, 17 pounds of meth and 32 weapons.

Gunmen snatched Reynoso and locked him in the basement of a home to try to settle the drug debt.

He was chained to a wall of the basement by his hands and ankles, gagged and beaten. His captors, members of a powerful Mexican drug cartel, held Reynoso for ransom, chained in the sweltering, dirty basement for six days without food.

Reynoso's ordeal could've been a scene from the drug war in Mexico. But it played out recently in suburban Atlanta, Georgia.

U.S. federal agents are fighting to keep that kind of violence from gripping Atlanta, as the city known for Coca-Cola and Delta Air Lines has become a major distribution hub for Mexican drug cartels.

In fiscal year 2008, authorities confiscated about $70 million in drug-related cash in Atlanta, more than anywhere else in the United States, the Drug Enforcement Administration says.

This fiscal year, Atlanta continues to outpace all other U.S. regions in such seizures, with $30 million confiscated so far. Next are Los Angeles, California, with about $19 million, and Chicago, Illinois, with $18 million.

"There is definitely a center of this type of drug activity here, and we are working to make sure the violence does not spill out to the general public," Atlanta U.S. Attorney David Nahmias said.

Atlanta has become a stopping point for truckloads of Mexican cocaine, heroin, marijuana and methamphetamine, agents say. The drugs are held in stash houses before being distributed up the East Coast.

"The money comes down here also to money managers in Atlanta, who get the books in order before it is sent out," said Rodney Benson, Atlanta's chief of the DEA.

Agents attribute the growth in drug trafficking to Atlanta's location, proximity to other major cities and access to major highways.

Authorities also point to the growth of the Hispanic population in Atlanta, which allows practitioners of the Mexican drug trade to blend in among hard-working, law-abiding Hispanics.

No place is that more evident than in Gwinnett County, a community about 20 miles north of Atlanta.

Gwinnett's Hispanic population rocketed from 8,470 in 1990 to 63,727 in 2000, according to the U.S. Census. By 2010, 20 percent of the county's projected population of 700,000 is expected to be Hispanic.

"In Gwinnett County, the drug dealers are able to hide in plain sight," county District Attorney Danny Porter said. "To combat this, we have to be much more coordinated between my office, the police department and the federal authorities. The presence of the organizations is a dilemma enough that we have to develop new tactics."

Federal agents say arrests and drug-related violence in Atlanta have been linked to the two most powerful Mexican organizations: the Sinaloa and Gulf cartels.

A battle over drug routes has been blamed for the recent surge in violence in Mexican border towns, bloodshed that has included hundreds of deaths.

The fear is that the battle will extend deeper into the United States, causing more to suffer a fate similar to Reynoso's ordeal in the Gwinnett County basement.

Lucky for Reynoso, federal agents had a wiretap on his captors' phones. Agents stormed the home just as it appeared that the debt would not be paid and Reynoso would be killed.

"There is no doubt in my mind that we saved his life that day," said the DEA's Benson.

One case resolved, as cartels thrive in Atlanta.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

AJC - Counties try to keep an eye on homestead exemptions

Here's an article from the AJC that addresses the issues I raised on misuse of homestead exemptions. The amount of money that is potentially lost is staggering. Unfortunately it is often the efforts of whistle blowers that return these revenues for use in providing county services. Often times the amount of money misappropriated reaches grand theft proportions, yet few are ever prosecuted.

While the article mentions that the county tax office appreciates the efforts of private citizens who act as "whistle blowers" the county solicitor's office is not quite as grateful - for my efforts I face spending the next sixteen months in jail fulfilling the county's real criminal offense - barking dogs.

My revocation hearing is next Thursday morning in Gwinnett's Recorders Court.

Counties try to keep eye on homestead exemptions

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

More than a few homeowners are overreaching when it comes to property tax breaks. And whether intentional or not, it’s keeping county offices busy.

In 2008, the Gwinnett County Tax Commissioner’s Office removed or denied some 617 current or past filings for homestead exemptions. Of those, seven were rentals whose exemption was pulled in the audit process.

Had all 617 gone through, the county could have lost close to $260,000 in revenue based on the average county homestead exemption of $420. This includes about $240 from the state’s homeowners tax relief grant.
“They don’t in any way represent 617 attempts to beat the system,” said Richard Steele, director of the property tax division of the Gwinnett County Tax Commissioner’s Office. “[They were] denied simply because they were, in fact, honest on the application.”

Homestead exemptions give property owners a break on property taxes for their primary residence. To qualify, a property must be used as a primary residence by the owner and be in the same county in which his or her vehicles are registered. Single or married, you may claim only one homestead exemption.

Like most other metro counties, Steele said, his auditors check applications against vehicle registrations, returned mail and postal records.

Steele said the law only provides penalties if an applicant intends to commit fraud. In such cases, property owners can be charged double the tax originally due. Proving intent, Steele said, is next to impossible.

So is assuring against it.

Each month, Cobb County Tax Commissioner Gail Downing said her office presents a list of properties to the board of assessors that have been discovered to be ineligible for the exemption. Last year, the office removed 222 homestead exemptions. The county’s average homestead exemption is about $500.

“I wish I could say it was infrequent, but it’s not,” she said. “In some cases it’s honestly just a misunderstanding or where they’re not aware that they’re not supposed to have it.”

Downing said she has pursued penalties in several cases. Most of the time, though, she said she gives the property owner 60 days to pay before penalties and interest kick in.

Fulton and DeKalb counties also employ auditing techniques to flag errant filings.

Fulton’s average homestead exemption is $500. Last year, its homestead division removed 16,341 exemptions.

The stakes are higher in DeKalb County. Thanks to the county’s homestead option sales tax, qualified owners receive an average homestead exemption of $1,073. Last year, the county removed 862 homestead exemptions not related to property transfers/ownership changes which are automatically removed.

If an application gets through the checks, auditors have one last tool: tips from neighbors.

“Our auditors get those kind of tips pretty much on a daily basis,” Steele said. “We’re very appreciative of that information.”