“The Dogs’ Tails Were Still Wagging”

From a piece on gassing pets at the Richmond Co Animal Control Shelter in GA, written 12 years ago:

“The black-and-white mixed cocker spaniel waited patiently in a cage at the Richmond County Animal Control Shelter.

“He was one of about 11,000 unwanted, neglected, sick, injured, abused or vicious animals that will die in the center’s gas chamber this year.

“He had no name, only a tag identifying him as R-159. He had been picked up on Milledge Road a few days earlier.

“In the same cage was 007, a short-haired, spotted pointer puppy, a red chow chow and a mixed shepherd dog that animal control officers had picked up running loose on U.S. Highway 25.

“Kennel master John White caught them with a catch pole, a stick with a wire noose on the end, and led them into the death room, where he loaded them into a round cage on wheels.

“He rolled the cage into a round metal cylinder that resembles a large barbecue grill. The dogs’ tails were still wagging.

“Mr. White closed the door, locked it and turned the handle on one of the nearby tanks of carbon monoxide. For a minute, there was no sound at all but the barking of dogs in other cages.

“Then it started.

“One high, mournful wail and then a deeper howl that rose in a crescendo of desperation that went on for about 45 seconds.

“And then it stopped.”

GA outlawed gas chambers for killing shelter pets in 1990 but a number of locations were grandfathered in, somewhat defeating the purpose.  The GA Voters for Animal Welfare lists about a dozen gas chambers (pdf) still in use in the state.  If you are a GA resident and don’t want your tax dollars being used to fund the gassing of shelter pets in your state, contact your elected officials.

To my mind, the killing of healthy/treatable shelter pets by sedation/IV injection is cruel because it’s unnecessary.  Gassing those pets to death is not only unnecessary but in many cases, especially cruel due to the lack of sedation, the inability of sick, elderly or very young pets to be able to breathe in the poisonous gas efficiently enough to cause timely death and, as documented in the above eyewitness account, 45 seconds of desperation, panic and pain is an eternity.

I don’t want to see healthy/treatable shelter pets killed by any means.  If there is anything I want to see less, it’s shelter pets suffering horrible deaths in gas chambers.  I know there are eyewitness accounts from people who have not reported hearing the dogs scream as they die.  This does not sway my view in the slightest.  If there is the chance that some of the pets put in gas chambers will suffer agonizing deaths, I’m against it.  And apparently, at least some pets do.

5 thoughts on ““The Dogs’ Tails Were Still Wagging”

  1. Some dogs and cats suffer agonizing deaths using euthanasia solution. I’ve held a few as they screamed and seizured and died. It was not pleasant. Some don’t die.

    Killing an animal with the least amount of suffering is contingent on a variety of factors.

    Gassing works well with carbon monoxide or nitrogen/argon/co mixtures. It works well with individual animals who are far more stressed by human handling than by walking into a box. It works well with individual animals, not groups. The same problems with gassing are found with barbiturates (i.e. different reactions dependent on health, age, excitability level, arousal, fear, etc). On a spectrum, for most animals, a tranq + euth solution results in the least amount of suffering for the most number of animals. Utilitarianism for the win, I guess.

    It’s all death, though. And it’s “humaneness” is often judged by how it makes US feel, not necessarily whether it is the most/least humane for the individual in question.

  2. I take you at your word Rinalia on lethal injection. I only worked in veterinary medicine for 4 years and we mainly worked to keep animals alive. But i did assist in a number of euthanasias, always by injection and of course I’ve held my own pets when it was time to let them go. The only pet I can recall ever having a terrible reaction was a cat in a vet clinic who a Vet fresh out of school couldn’t find a vein on so did a heartstick. That cat appeared to suffer, at length, and ultimately was injected at least a couple more times as I recall. I’ve never experienced any pets suffering from IV injection.
    I’ll take my lumps where deserved but I feel confident I can judge “humaneness” without inserting myself into the equation.

    1. My experience is at a sanctuary for farmed animals, working at a vet office for dogs and cats, and volunteering (and being in the kill room of) at a hi-kill shelter. I had a similar experience w/ an older cat at the vet office – it took 30 minutes to find a vein. That was ridiculous. But at the shelter was the worst. They do it differently now, but then they didn’t tranq before the IV and there was a small percentage of dogs and cats who suffered at length.

      “I’ll take my lumps where deserved but I feel confident I can judge “humaneness” without inserting myself into the equation.”

      Really? The AVMA considers some forms of gassing acceptable. Do you disagree or are you inserting your judgement of gassing as being inhumane into the equation? On the flip-side, even though argon is considered less traumatizing to dogs and cats, it’s considered only conditionally acceptable, while carbon dioxide, which is a major irritant and almost all sources consider it a gas that causes suffering (even if it is small) is acceptable.

      I’m not attacking you here. I just think that we always insert our own feelings and values into the equation when it comes to death. And I don’t think that is, by necessity, a bad thing. At the same time, I think it can obscure the reality for the animals themselves. I *still* think barbiturates are the least stressful for most species and most scientific studies show this to be true. But scientific studies also show that argon/CO mixtures cause minimal suffering and stress. So then what are you left with but your own judgments and feelings on the matter?

      1. Yes, I disagree with the AVMA’s approval of gassing. It is probably the most cited endorsement used by those who support gas chambers. I wish they would revise their position. The Assoc. of Shelter Vets opposes it but the AVMA approves. Go figure. On the other, perhaps we are in agreement after a fashion. Maybe it’s just a matter of semantics but I think of compassion for living things as being more than a desire to feel good about myself. Feeling that is not balanced with critical thinking is dangerous in my experience.

  3. As practiced in GA, the gas chamber is anything but humane. Check out the written testimony of Rabbi Larry Schlesinger (who witnessed the gassing of 17 dogs in Macon and was instrumental in shutting the chamber down) and of ACO Linda Cordry (who removed Amazing Grace, still alive from the Liberty County chamber in 2006) available on the Grace’s Law page at http://www.gvaw.org In Liberty county, the ACOs would leave the building and go to lunch while the dogs were gassed so as not to hear their shrieking.

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