Garland Animal Shelter Gives Up Gas Chamber

Garland, Texas has an animal “shelter” that kills a lot of pets. Sometimes they admit pets directly into the gas chamber which is the killing method they prefer, since it saves 4 pennies per dead pet. There has been a struggle between the shelter and community to get rid of the gas chamber. The community has now gotten its wish and a local newspaper columnist is less than enthused:

Starting Friday, lethal injection will replace carbon-monoxide gas as the city’s primary method of euthanasia.
But what a lousy victory. Because either way, almost 6,000 dogs and cats, puppies and kittens will still end up dead and in the city’s garbage dump this year.

Right. That sucks. And while we can be happy that the gas chamber will no longer be used as the primary killing method, what we need to focus on now is how to decrease the killing. At least with the gas chamber issue resolved, we don’t have to be continually sidetracked with the tired old arguments about how the AVMA hearts gas chambers.

Contrary to misimpressions you may have gotten, Garland has always been using a euthanasia method fully endorsed and approved as humane by the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Oh geez.

In fact, as I talked to Garland city officials about this situation, they seemed eager for me to actually witness the gas-euthanasia process. And so I did.

Mention of carbon-monoxide euthanasia creates images of a crude hose-and-tailpipe contraption. In fact, the city uses a commercially built system – a stainless-steel box about five feet on each side, attached to industrial-type bottles of CO.

Oh well I didn’t realize it was a commercially made gas chamber. That sounds lovely. Does it sparkle?

Animals are placed in separate cages (up to four at a time) and rolled into the box. I watched as a single animal – a 55-pound pit bull – was rolled in.

A glass door makes the whole process highly visible. And it doesn’t take long.

The dog sat docilely, looking back at me looking at him. The gas quietly hissed. And in about a minute, the dog suddenly wobbled, his eyes lost focus and he toppled over.

It was sad, quick work. And I wished that this dog’s lousy owner could have been forced to watch.

Since the column notes that the dog was picked up for roaming and was well fed and wearing a harness, how can you be so sure the owner is “lousy”? True, the owner did not reclaim the dog but then, this shelter does have a history of gassing pets within minutes of admission. I don’t know how long this dog was held but in the absence of sufficient evidence to the contrary, I’m not ready to label anybody “lousy”. Maybe the owner is in the hospital or maybe he doesn’t know where to look for his dog. Maybe he is avoiding looking at the shelter because he knows it only as a place that kills 6000 pets a year.

The column’s author watched this dog die and wished that the owner could have seen it. You know what I wish? I wish the dog could have been adopted out by the shelter, relocated to a shelter in another area where he could have been adopted or released to a rescue group. I wish he could have been lovingly cared for by those charged with sheltering the community’s lost and homeless pets until a permanent situation could be found for him. I wish that he was, you know, not dead.

We’ve got to find a way to wake up irresponsible pet owners. Sentencing them to a day of death-chamber duty might be a start.

Blaming the public for the killing that goes on at the local shelter has never helped anyone. Yes there are irresponsible pet owners just as there are irresponsible Mothers, drivers and gun owners. They are part of our society but the ones who are willfully irresponsible are, I believe, a small minority. With education, public outreach and access to community services, many “irresponsible owners” will do the right thing by their pets. They just need a hand up. Less judgment, more understanding.

We are a humane society of people who care about pets. Join us.

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