While most consumers may be aware that the Georgia Department of Agriculture regulates livestock, food products, and agricultural inputs, many people may not know that GDA also oversees the pet and companion animal industry.
“In today’s world, consumers treat their pets as members of their family,” said Georgia Commissioner of Agriculture Gary W. Black. “That being the case, we take very seriously our role in overseeing the health of their animals.”
The Animal Protection Act, established in 1987, safeguards consumers by ensuring that only healthy pets enter the marketplace. The Act also regulates pet dealers and breeders, kennels and animal shelters by outlining guidelines and standards which these establishments must follow. Such facilities must be licensed by GDA and monitored through frequent inspections to ensure adequate and humane care of pet animals in the marketplace and in shelters or boarding operations.
The Animal Protection section regulates the selling, boarding, and humane sheltering of companion animals from puppies, kittens and exotic birds to reptiles and pot-bellied pigs. Currently, the program has about 3,000 licensed facilities statewide, ranging from municipal animal shelters to breeders who have animals which produce only a few litters a year.
Animal Protection inspectors receive over 900 complaints a year, all of which are investigated. In addition, the office responds to requests for pre-licensing inspections. All individuals who enter the pet industry must have their facility inspected before a license may be issued. Once a facility is licensed, it remains subject to routine inspections.
Animal Protection Inspectors check for proper feeding, watering and sanitary conditions; the satisfactory state of repair of the facility; provisions for adequate and appropriate shelter; and the owner's maintenance of required paperwork. Each inspection varies according to the type of facility involved and the species of animals on the premises. Humane euthanasia performed by animal shelters is closely monitored to prevent improper techniques or treatment of the animals.
When inspectors encounter a facility that is not in compliance, a reasonable time frame is determined and the owner given an opportunity to bring the facility up to the expected standard level. It is only after attempts fail to bring a facility up to standard, that a "stop sale" order is issued.
"Stop sale/stop movement" orders prevent an owner from selling or moving any animals until the facility is brought up to standard. Once the corrections are made, the order is lifted and normal trade may resume. Repeated issues of non-compliance may result in suspension or revocation of the license.
In addition, Animal Protection inspectors also are utilized as equine inspectors, giving double coverage to both companion animals and horses.
The law provides for the issuance of quarantines to isolate, control, and eradicate infectious and contagious diseases. While under a quarantine, the owner must work with a veterinarian and follow their recommendations for appropriate diagnoses and treatments. The quarantine is lifted following the veterinarian's written notice to the Department that all animals are healthy and/or the threat of disease has been eliminated.
The Animal Protection Act is designed to protect all entities involved in the pet and companion animal industry -- consumers, dealers, breeders, kennel operators, animal shelter directors and, most importantly, the animals themselves. The purpose of the law is to insure the health and welfare of pet animals and to provide safeguards to the consumer.
For more information, call the Animal Protection Office at 1-800-282-5852, or 404-656-4914 (Atlanta)
Jeanie Curphey, an Animal Protection/Equine Health inspector, is shown with one of the vehicles that is used in the monitoring of pet dealers, breeders, kennels, and animal shelters to ensure adequate and humane care of pet animals. Such facilities must be licensed by the Georgia Department of Agriculture.