Dr. Robert M. Cobb, Jr.
Animal agriculture is the largest sector of agriculture, contributing over $5.8 billion to Georgia's farm gate value. Assuring that the livestock and poultry sectors remain healthy and productive is one of the top priorities of the Animal Industry Division.
The Animal Industry Division consists of veterinarians, field inspectors, laboratory technicians, program managers and support staff, all diligently working to ensure the continued protection of animal and public health, food safety, animal welfare and successful livestock production. The State Veterinarian and Assistant Commissioner of Animal Industry directs the Division organized in Sections of Animal Health, Equine Health, Livestock Poultry Field Forces, Meat Inspection, and Livestock Market News.
The Animal Industry Division is responsible for monitoring, detecting, and controlling over 100 animal diseases (Georgia R.A.D.S) that can have a significant impact on the agricultural economy and trade, or that can be contagious to both animals and people (i.e. zoonoses). The Division maintains extensive surveillance programs for foreign animal diseases, such as highly pathogenic avian influenza and exotic Newcastle disease in poultry, and foot-and-mouth disease and bovine spongiform encephalopathy (i.e. mad cow disease) in cattle. Animal diseases that are endemic to the area are also monitored, such as Johnes disease in ruminants, equine infectious anemia in equine, and scrapie in sheep and goats. To this end, animals are inspected and samples collected by Department staff at livestock markets, slaughter facilities, equine sales establishments, flea markets, and animal exhibitions for testing by the Georgia Poultry Laboratory Network and the Athens-Tifton Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratories. The Division also regulates the transportation of animals, disposal of animal carcasses, and the rendering of animal tissues into animal feeds, all of which are vital components of an overall animal health program.
The Meat Inspection Section is the largest compartment of the Animal Industry Division. The Section licenses 163 facilities in Georgia and protects consumers from food borne diseases. Meat Inspectors assure consumers will receive wholesome, safe, and truthfully labeled meat and meat and poultry products by assuring compliance with food safety standards. Meat Inspection veterinarians oversee the humane slaughter of livestock and provide medical judgments for the proper disposition of meat products presented for human consumption. The Section also has a primary role in food security and would serve as first responders to an intentional threat on our meat supply.
Agriculture and Food Defense is a relatively new function for the Animal Industry Division and, through Emergency Support Function #11, the Division is responsible for directing and coordinating resources for the mitigation, prevention, response, and recovery efforts necessary to assist animals and animal industries in the event of a natural disaster, animal health emergency, or agroterror incident.
The Division oversees the humane treatment of equine, licenses and inspects stables, and helps control infectious and contagious diseases of equine. Equine inspectors also train volunteer organizations and local governments on the safe and proper techniques in equine rescue.
Providing timely and accurate market information is critical for sound business decisions by the commercial poultry industry and livestock producers. Market news reports reflect price trends and help facilitate exports of Georgia livestock products worldwide.
The Georgia Dog and Cat Sterilization Program, funded by the sale of the Dog and Cat Sterilization License Plates, helps to pay for spay and neuter procedures performed by Georgia veterinarians and for educational materials about the healthy choice of sterilization.
The State Veterinarian’s Office approves the distribution and sale of all animal vaccines and permits the importation of veterinary biologicals into the state. Requests include permits for vaccine efficacy field trials, autogenous vaccine production and use, and the importation of biological materials to universities and federal laboratories, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The proper oversight of animal vaccines and biological materials is critical in maintaining the health of animal populations in Georgia.
The Division is involved in environmental stewardship on livestock farms and, in cooperation with the Georgia Environmental Protection Division, trains nutrient management planners and monitors concentrated animal feeding operations.