When the N.C. Board of Agriculture voted Feb. 13 to continue to allow animal shelters to use gas chambers to kill unwanted animals, it missed an ideal opportunity to raise North Carolina up to a more humane standard. Using gas chambers to kill companion animals is not humane.
As many shelter workers testified during the July 18, 2007, public hearing on the subject, howls, cries and sounds of animals fighting coming from gas chambers are common. One worker even told of animals “coming back to life” at the town dump because they were gassed incorrectly. This testimony about animals suffering, given by the professionals who are closest to the situation, was ignored.
The Board of Agriculture points out that the American Veterinary Medical Association allows for the use of carbon monoxide to kill animals. That is true; however, AVMA also approves of euthanasia by injection (EBI). We believe that EBI is the only humane method for euthanizing animals. How can shoving a dog or cat into a box, flipping a switch and walking away be considered humane or compassionate? For a frightened animal, being held, petted and comforted in its final moments of life may be the only kindness it has ever known. Shelter animals deserve the same type of peaceful death as our own family pets.
Supporters of gassing argue that gas chambers are more cost-effective. But studies have shown that EBI is not more costly. In fact, Mecklenburg County has been using EBI exclusively for almost a decade, and its methods are more cost-effective than those of many shelters that euthanize far fewer animals.
Euthanizing an animal requires proper training, emotional stamina and proper funding. American Humane will continue to work with North Carolina to protect animals in the state, through legislation and hands-on assistance. Earlier this month, at the request of the State Agricultural Department, we deployed a team to Hendersonville to help in the All Creatures Great and Small crisis, and we work with the State Animal Response Team. We are willing to award grants and train organizations in North Carolina on how to switch from gassing to EBI.
As long as pet overpopulation continues to plague North Carolina, it is a tragic fact of life that dogs and cats in shelters will be euthanized. But it must be done humanely. There cannot be a double standard