Bessie, a Black and Tan Coonhound, was flagged for rescue at the Chesterfield Co Animal Shelter in SC last week. As such, she was moved from the main adoption floor to a run with three other dogs with whom she had reportedly been kenneled previously. A fight erupted and Bessie was so badly injured, the shelter decided to put her in the gas chamber. Although the article doesn’t say, I wonder if the rescue group slated to pull Bessie was ever notified and given the opportunity to take her to a vet for emergency treatment.
Bessie’s story has stirred up local controversy over the circumstances surrounding her death as well as the issues of overcrowding at the shelter and its use of the gas chamber – which was last inspected…never?
While the use of the gas chamber is legal in South Carolina, there are a number of requirements in the state law pertaining to the use of these devices. Due to the age of the equipment and the lack of funding in Chesterfield County, some of the requirements as set by law are not being met, and still there are other requirements that could not be verified as being up to code at press time.
One of the requirements for using a carbon monoxide gas chamber is that it must be inspected quarterly by an independent and qualified technician to ensure that it is in proper working order. According to Animal Control Officer Brian Burch, who has worked with the department for more than 13 years, the chamber, to his knowledge, has not been inspected.
The chamber must also have a functioning gas concentration gauge on it to monitor the levels of carbon dioxide within the chamber and be completely air tight with no leaks or cracks in the walls. This is to ensure that the gas chamber is not only working efficiently, but that no animals suffer unnecessarily in the process. According to Burch, there is not a gauge attached to the chamber monitoring the levels inside, but one on the bottle of carbon dioxide gas.
Are “age of the equipment and the lack of funding” acceptable defenses in Chesterfield Co for breaking the law? That would seem unlikely to me. The county has a reason for continuing to use the gas chamber without knowing if pets are suffering more than usual as they are being killed:
“We have no budget,” [Chesterfield Co Sheriff Sam] Parker said. “I would love to be a no-kill facility.”
Well that’s good to hear. Now that we know you would love to be a no kill shelter, you can immediately stop killing animals, especially those with rescue holds on them. Then you can get rid of your outdated killing contraption which may or may not cause extra suffering to pets, beyond the standard suffering endured in a well maintained gas chamber. Implementation of the no kill equation, which has lead to the creation of no kill communities all around the country, is essential. I look forward to hearing about Chesterfield County’s continued improvement in saving the lives of pets, just like Austin.
Oh – wait. When you say you’d “love to be a no kill facility”, you meant if the shelter gets more money, you’ll kill pets by injection instead of gassing them?:
According to Parker, the cost of using lethal injection for euthanasia is estimated to be anywhere from $4 to $10 per animal depending on their size. He says that they cannot do away with the program currently in use until they have additional funding in place to pay for the medication needed for the lethal injection process.
Never mind that those figures are wrong (which the article points out), I don’t understand how someone who would love to be a no kill shelter expects to reach his goal by gassing pets until his shelter receives additional funding at which time he’ll kill the pets in his care by another method. You can’t get there from here.
While it’s encouraging to read that there has been discussion of offering low cost spay-neuter services to the county, the creation of a successful no kill community begins with a strong leader, committed to the cause. I question whether the county’s leadership would truly love to have a no kill shelter. Until such leadership is in place, I fear Bessie will not be the last tragic death at the Chesterfield Co Animal Shelter.