North Carolina may be the next state to ban using the gas chamber to euthanize shelter animals. Representative Cary Allred filed a bill called the Humane Euthanasia in Shelters Act or the Davie's Law last week. The bill calls on county or city-run animal shelters to stop using gas chambers to euthanize unwanted animals. Rep. Allfred said, “I've got three dogs and two cats, and I would not want them to be put down in a gas chamber. I don't believe it's humane to use exhaust fumes, the same fumes you get from the tailpipe of a car.” He said lethal injection lets “them go peacefully to sleep.” The bill is named for a puppy that survived being gassed in a North Carolina shelter, who was later found alive in a dumpster. He was rescued by a family who stopped to drop off trash and heard him crying from inside a plastic bag.
Lethal injection is the preferred method of euthanasia by the American Veterinary Medical Association and National Animal Control Association. For the animal, if administered properly, it is usually no different than a shot given by a veterinarian. If the animal is or becomes aggressive, it can be sedated prior to the injection. However, many states still practice other methods of euthanasia such as, electrocution, heartstick, shooting, drowning, and beating. Intracardiac injection or heartstick, for example, typically involves sticking a needle into a conscious animal's heart; the animal is often stabbed repeatedly in this way.
Alice Singh, a board member with the NC Coalition for Humane Euthanasia, said witnessing animals being put to death in a gas chamber in Yadkin County prompted her to support the legislation. “I will never forget what I saw,” she said. “The dogs were trying to jump out of the large metal box, only to fail with many other dogs in the chamber with them. The screams from that box will never escape my memory, nor will the many scratches inside of the box, or the blood in the bottom left after removing the dogs.”
Besides the mental stress on shelter workers, there is also a physical danger to using gas chambers. They are at risk from CO poisoning when they load and unload or clean the gas chamber, breathing in low levels of the gas on a regular basis. A 2007 AVMA report warns, “[Carbon monoxide gas is]....hazardous to personnel because of the risk of explosions...or health effects resulting from chronic exposure....Leaky or faulty equipment may lead to slow, distressful death and be hazardous to other animals and to personnel.” CO gas leaks have been documented at gas chambers in Rockingham, Montgomery, Randolph, Stokes, Columbus, Sampson, and Granville counties in NC. In July, 2008, in Iredell County, NC, the gas chamber exploded with 10 dogs crammed inside; an employee was present at the time, and other workers were in the next room.
Lastly, numerous studies have proven that lethal injection is less costly than utilizing gas chambers to euthanize animals. The Western Pennsylvania Humane Society, by using an Animal Euthanasia Cost Analysis work sheet, developed at Texas A&M University, showed in September 2000, that to euthanize 10,000 animals per year, the cost of gassing averages $13,230 while lethal injection averages $12,700.
Ultimately, the goal is to euthanize as few animals as possible (in a perfect world, NOT euthanizing ANY because of lack of homes would be great), but to argue over the best method for destroying them is ridiculous in the year 2009. There is no reason to use dangerous, inhumane methods to destroy shelter animals. To show your support of the Humane Euthanasia in Shelters Act and to urge NC representatives to pass the bill, please contact the North Carolina General Assembly.
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