Tennessee DVM case spurs clarification of 'heart shot' law

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May 01, 2008

NASHVILLE, TEN. — Sedation before intracardial injection euthanasia soon will be required in Tennessee after a DVM's highly publicized disciplinary case led lawmakers to push for legislative clarification on the method.

Signed by the governor to become effective July 1, the law specifies that animals must be properly sedated before a sodium pentobarbital injection, also called a heart shot.

Previous language, stating only that animals may or shall be given sedatives, was deemed ambiguous and in need of clarification to ensure humane animal treatment.

The law came under scrutiny after William Baber, DVM, was secretly recorded performing intercardiac euthanasia without sedation while working at the Sumner County Animal Control Shelter in Gallatin. A veterinarian more than 25 years, Baber had his license suspended until last month, was fined and put on five years' probation following a disciplinary hearing before the Tennessee Board of Veterinary Medicine.

Facing multiple counts of animal cruelty, Baber contended he was unaware that state law required sedation during the procedure.

The new bill, introduced by State Rep. Debra Maggart (R-Hendersonville), requires animal shelters and rescue facilities to hold retrieved animals at least three business days, giving owners more time to search for and claim lost pets.