Mixed Messages on Banning the Gas Chamber

There’s no such thing as bad press?  I beg to differ:

Thousands of animals are put to death in Alabama each year, mostly because there are not enough homes to take them. While animal rights groups are not protesting that fact, they are protesting one particular method of euthanasia legal in Alabama: the gas chamber.
“It’s a very sad reality that we have to do euthanasia at all,” said Allison Almand, member of BARC, which stands for “Bring Animal Reform to Cullman. The group is comprised of five different animal rescue groups in Cullman, and its primary goal is to see the local animal shelter stop euthanizing animals by gassing.

While these 5 “animal rescue” groups in AL may not be protesting the killing of pets for purported lack of homes, we are.  We know that pet overpopulation is a myth and we have the math to prove it.  There are enough homes for all the healthy/treatable pets in shelters in this country.  And we don’t want them gassed, injected with a lethal solution, shot, or killed by any method.

No kill advocates must be clear in our mission regarding the gas chamber:  We want to ban the use of gas chambers because of the unnecessary suffering they cause to pets AND because there is no need to kill healthy, friendly shelter pets.  Working towards ending the gassing of pets is a positive step in our effort toward ending the killing of healthy/treatable pets in shelters.  “Positive” because it brings awareness to the issue of needless shelter killing and its inherent cruelty.  It gives us a chance to talk about the differences between killing and euthanasia and how the gas chamber is unsuitable for pets who are medically hopeless and suffering as they may well have decreased ventilation, causing them to suffer for an extended period.

In addition, discussing the issue of gassing pets gives us the opportunity to educate people on the most  common pro-gas chamber arguments.  For example, those who want to keep gassing pets to death often cite that it is an AVMA approved method of killing (pdf).  This is accurate.  But it needs to be put into context.  The AVMA is fast becoming isolated in its support for the gas chamber.  The No Kill Advocacy Center (pdf), the Association of Shelter Veterinarians (pdf), the National Animal Control Association, and the American Humane Association have all issued position statements against the use of the gas chamber. In addition, Arizona, Delaware, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Washington and Wyoming all ban gas chambers for killing shelter pets in their states.  Several more states have similar legislation pending.

Then there is the issue of cost:

Both BARC and AVRAL, which stands for Alabama Voters for Responsible Animal Legislation, say animal shelters resort to gassing because it is quick, seemingly cheaper, and can kill multiple animals at once. [Cullman Animal Shelter director Tim] McKoy said at his shelter, it costs about 35 cents to euthanize an animal by gassing, and about $2.98 to administer an injection of sodium pentobarbital.

This is false.  According to a 2009 study (pdf) commissioned by the American Humane Association, “the cost to use carbon monoxide gas is $4.98 per animal. The cost to use carbon monoxide poisoning without a tranquilizer is $4.66 per animal. The cost to use EBI [euthanasia by injection], however, was only $2.29 per animal.”

And lastly, there is the weary excuse that killing by gas chamber makes it easier for shelter workers to sleep at night:

McKoy said yes, the animals are left alone as the gas is administered, but the hands-off approach is one reason the CO chamber is beneficial to his staff.
“It’s a low impact euthanasia method for the personnel,” he said. “You have to think about the human cost. I love animals, we all do, that’s why we do this job. It’s hard to have to hold an animal down, shave a spot over it’s vein and give it an injection and watch it die.”
McKoy said it’s not uncommon for animal euthanasia technicians to need therapy and counseling to cope with the emotional demands of their jobs. He said it’s particularly tough on his small staff of five, who regularly has to manage a large volume of animals.
“I’m concerned about the animals, but I’m more concerned about my personnel,” he said.

Well dare I say, if the director of the local shelter isn’t putting the welfare of the community’s pets ahead of how his staff feels, let’s get someone in there who will be a voice for these pets.  Needless killing of shelter pets is emotionally traumatizing for those who do it.  Let’s talk about that – not which method would allow staff to be more hard-hearted about the killings.

Discussion on banning the gas chamber should be an easy argument.  People in general do not want gas chambers used to kill shelter pets.  It is up to no kill advocates to use the issue as a means to educate the public about the bigger picture – namely the needless killing of pets in shelters.  If you get a chance to be interviewed by the local TV news, don’t send mixed messages about killing like these folks in AL did.  We don’t want gas chambers because they play a cruel part in the unnecessary killing of shelter pets.

27 thoughts on “Mixed Messages on Banning the Gas Chamber

  1. then why keep doing it if it’s that horrible?
    I just don’t understand why they keep doing it!!!!

  2. It is unusual for ACO’s to break rank and contradict the falsehoods about gassing being easier for them. One did. She still has nightmares about the gas chamber:


    Another witness to a gassing would disagree as well:


    Shelter staff often leave the premises while they run the gas chamber to avoid having to hear the sounds the terrified and dying animals make:


    (Note that there are actually 13 known gas chambers in GA. Grace’s Law goes into effect 12-31-10)

    Since animals are killed in groups in gas chambers, they have the additional stress of witnessing the deaths of other animals, something which is often overlooked in discussions about gas chambers.

    When I was involved in the campaign for Grace’s Law, I had the disconcerting experience of seeing some of my fellow anti-gassing advocates eagerly discussing plans to help shelters transition to a different method of killing. We need to aim higher than that. It is also worth noting that some shelter which still gas, also use EBI on some animals. It’s not as if they are somehow unaware of it.

    On a practical note, these two friendly dogs still need adoption or rescue, they have $200 sponsorship each, free transport for 200 miles and spay-neuter and vaccines will be covered by sponsors:


  3. Yes, get rid of gassing. End of story, period. Cost is a non-issue when suffering is at stake (and yes, animals do and can easily suffer w/ euthasol, but suffering is guaranteed w/ gas chambers).

    And yes, it misses the point – it’s a red herring. We shouldn’t be killing animals anyways. And yeah, I feel the same way about farmed animals. It’s like when folks vote on eliminating battery cages and gestation crates. Red herring – the overwhelming majority of human beings DON’T need meat to survive. The overwhelming majority of dogs and cats don’t need to be killed and focusing on less cruel ways to kill them misses the point.

  4. The author’s insinuation that BARC or AVRAL agree with McCoy’s incorrect statement regarding the cost of gassing vs EBI is insulting. It is common knowledge both BARC and AVRAL have presented expert cost analysis of Carbon Monoxide Gassing vs. EBI to this Commission, who funds the Cullman Animal Control facility, as well as to the animal control Director and staff; figures that contradict McCoy’s statements. In fact, American Humane Association has sent letters and cost analysis to Cullman on behalf of BARC’s and AVRAL’s efforts.

    The routine killing of homeless animals by any method whatsoever is condemned by these animal advocates. However, the barbaric method of gassing animals is being addressed in an effort to save as many as possible, as soon as possible, from unimaginable terror and painful, elongated death. There is no indication that Alabama law will prohibit euthanasia in animal facilities in the near future, but there is a good chance to prohibit the use of Carbon Monoxide Gas Chambers by law quickly. BARC and AVRAL are the only organized groups in Alabma who have spoken out collectively and publicly against this method.

    Appealing to the responsible governmental authorites,(who control and fund euthanasia methods in animal facilities), endeavouring to secure sponsorship for bills in legislature and gain support of the voters is a “first”in Alabama. BARC is tackling – head-on – a tragic issue in their own community, another first. AVRAL is less than a year old, and I would dare say, taking on the gas chambers in Alabama is a pretty darn good start.

    I would hope that this blogger would wish them well and support their worthy efforts. Reforming the animal control system and making our state a safe place for animals in any circumstances, can only be achieved by having permanent, enforceable laws enacted, locally and statewide. Making the extermination of innocent animals in gas chambers illegal is a priority. It is an urgent need NOW, for the untold number of animals who face this obscene death NOW.

    1. Netanya,
      Please clarify where I failed to get my point across to you with this post.
      I will not “wish them well and support their worthy efforts” when the groups appear to be repeating the pet overpopulation/killing as a necessary evil falsehoods. I am for no kill. I am for euthanasia for pets who are medically hopeless and suffering. Again quoting from the article, it seems clear these groups support killing – and wrongly refer to it as euthanasia – for population control:
      Thousands of animals are put to death in Alabama each year, mostly because there are not enough homes to take them. While animal rights groups are not protesting that fact, they are protesting one particular method of euthanasia legal in Alabama: the gas chamber.
      “It’s a very sad reality that we have to do euthanasia at all,” said Allison Almand, member of BARC, which stands for “Bring Animal Reform to Cullman.

  5. While the gas chamber is more cruel than a needle, a needle is equally as deadly.

    Our mission isnt status quo failure = making the murders of cats and dogs a little less painful for them.

    Our mission is No-Kill Revolution greatness = ENDING the murder of cats and dogs.

    Gas chamber, Gun, Knife, Needle = same intolerable, despicable CRUEL result (Murder)

  6. I agree with you on the fact that no-kill is the best way to go.
    Its a hard battle to get people to understand that here though and I am trying to take it one step at a time, especially for this area. I’ve lived throughout the country and no kill is possible, I’ve seen it and support it and I am a big fan of Nathan Winograd as well. Speaking out on the gas chamber takes a tremendous amount of courage and I normally don’t have that courage. I’m just a Mom to two children who loves animals and I was reprimanded by the shelter employees for daring to speak out against the gas chamber one day which helped start the fight.
    I was a volunteer there trying to help in any way I can. I spoke to a public figure about their use of the gas chamber and the next time I was at the shelter, I was taken into an office with my two little girls and was told that speaking out about the method they use there was no good to anyone and they do not want the public to know about it. That is how this began and why I am speaking out on the gas chamber now.
    I don’t want any animal to have to die, which I also stated in the interview, but that was not aired. Please keep in mind that the news edit things to suit the story they want to tell.

    1. Did the paper misquote you and/or mischaracterize your positions Allison? If they did, let’s set the record straight! I know things can be edited badly or even spun to suit an agenda (hopefully that’s not what happened here) but there is no excuse for an outright misquote w/out correction.
      Further, I hate what happened to you as you describe w/the office incident. Totally inappropriate they would try to bully you like that and unforgiveable they pulled your two daughters in on it. Girls face enough challenges growing up without watching their Mom get bullied by people who want to gas pets and keep the public from hearing about it. That makes me angry!

      1. There was not a misquote, it was just information that was left out. My daughters are the reason I fight it now, because that day I left the shelter in tears with my girls wanting to know why Mommy was so sad.

  7. While I understand this is a blog, I do wish a bit more investigative journalism had been employed with regard to AVRAL’s position. I am state chair of the group, and can tell you with certainty that we know gassing is more expensive than EBI, and we have presented that information to State Senator Del Marsh and House Rep. Steve McMillan, who are co-sponsoring our bill to BAN THE GAS CHAMBER. I can also tell you, in equally certain terms, that we are most certainly working toward a day in Alabama when NO HEALTHY ANIMAL IS KILLED. However, those of us who live here know full well what the cultural values are in Alabama (and Mississippi and Louisiana, and North and South Carolina, and Kentucky, and Tennessee), we know what we are up against, we know what strategies work best, and we are taking this one step at a time. If you believe that walking into the Alabama state legislature waving a copy of either of Winograd’s books will turn us into a No-Kill state within a year or two, you have not done your research. Winograd implores organizations to work IN STEPS, WE HAVE READ HIS WORK, and we are doing just that–working step by step. We are blossoming into an active grassroots movement, building membership among everyday Alabamians, not focusing only on those who already understand the politics of animal welfare. We do not disagree with the fact that no healthy animal should be killed, WE AGREE. But your rhetoric implies getting an entire state, a state that historically has not valued the lives of companion animals highly (specifically with regard to laws that protect them), can turn on a dime and somehow magically solve a complex set of animal welfare issues. You and AVRAL do not have opposing goals. Don’t condemn a group when you clearly have not done your research and know little to nothing of the demographic miasma of which you speak. The news story you reference, we believe, did not go far enough, despite the fact we had given them solid research they could have used to question the shelter director at Cullman. The director blatantly misrepresented how animals are gassed, offered up a number of falsehoods, and of course this angers us. However, our eyes are on the bigger picture. We know that when videos of gassing are played for senators and representatives during the next legislative session, that news story will be irrelevant, and the shelter director will have little relevance.
    We are in this for the long haul. Every member of AVRAL knows full well that in Alabama, persistence is key, changing minds and hearts is difficult, but we will not be deterred. We know there will be setbacks; we are prepared for them. We do have enemies who are quite threatened by our growth and our efforts. You are not among them, so I ask that you tone down your rhetoric, do your research (esp. with regard to demographics/poverty level/ability to engage in responsible pet ownership across Alabama population/number of stray and homeless pets in this state etc.) before you go off half-cocked. You have the luxury of condemning us for “spreading the myth” of overpopulation. You are cordially invited to speak to every shelter, every organized group in this state and convince them this is NOT THE CASE IN ALABAMA–CONVINCE them there is no overpopulation in Alabama. I am not talking about the U.S. as a whole, I am talking specifically about Alabama. You will not succeed. Why? Because perception is more powerful than reality, and you have to work long, hard, and tirelessly to change perception. That’s what we’re doing, and it is regrettable that you failed to ask AVRAL’s leadership what the heck we’re doing before writing this piece. Now, I’m going to spend the rest of today drumming up more AVRAL members, sending press releases to newspapers, and doing interviews with area media outlets. I will be giving them the FACTS about animal welfare issues in Alabama. I urge you to engage in more factually-based rhetoric as well.
    Rhonda Parker, State Chair, AVRAL
    Alabama Voters for Responsible Animal Legislation

    1. Rhonda,
      You are way out of line with your personal criticisms here. If the article I quoted from mischaracterized your positions, your beef is with them. I simply responded to the article. If the article is inaccurate, incorrect, or otherwise in error, I hope you will request they correct the record. If they do, I’ll post that correction.

      1. You relied on THE ARTICLE alone for your mischaracterization of us? That’s as far as you went? When you realized that they aired McCoy’s statement of his magical mystery gas chamber that rendered “death in 10 seconds” bit, you didn’t get the slightest sense you needed to dig deeper? Look, my point is made. We aren’t on opposite sides of this issue.

  8. “How did you mischaracterzize?” – Re-read the responses that covered your mischaracterization to a “T”. Fortunately, we do hold the bigger picture as our ultimate goal. However, we recognize the necessary intricate, tedious steps necessary to achieve.
    Unfortunately, the press does not always report quotes correctly. Fortunately, this TV segment enlightened much of Alabama’s sleeping public to the urgency of ending this most horrific method (included,termed and perceived as “euthanization”), though we are well aware that it is the brutal slaughter of innocent. Any venue that offers exposure to the level of killing, by any method, in Alabama animal facilities is a step forward, even if the reporting is not perfect or to our absolute satisfaction. Another “first” and not the last, thanks to BARC and AVRAL.

      1. How about this: you failed to do anything except offer a knee-jerk response. You mischaracterized by relying on a faulty source of info–a one minute media piece. If you visit our website, you will see that NO-KILL is one of our top ten issues. Yes, we have identified 10 issues of primary concern to us. On our website, we explain to the average Alabamian who has not read Winograd what “no kill” means. I’m not going to do your homework for you, rather than preaching from a blogging pulpit, AVRAL is on the march, making strategic choices. But, if you’d like to send us your magic wand for instantly transforming a state that annually kills 120,000 shelter pets, we’ll waive it around tomorrow. We’d love nothing better. I think you don’t understand that your passion, while admirable, scrambles your logic and critical thinking skills, and this likely HURTS Winograd’s cause. I’m trying to imagine how many Alabama voters would be immediately lost—never to be regained, if I shared your argument with them. They would immediately equate your position with the “fringe” crazed animal “rightist” element—WRONGLY SO, but they would do it. That’s the market. You need a different strategy. Logic must prevail. Pathos gets you NOWHERE politically. It comes down to this: do you want to preach from an ivory tower and lose the very people you MUST HAVE in order to facilitate the No Kill movement, or do you want to enlighten them one step at a time, furthering their dedication to the cause, so that NO KILL seems like a logical, necessary next step? I’m following Winograd, we have his step-by-step action plan. IF NONE OF THIS MAKES SENSE TO YOU, if your defensiveness and “need to be right” must prevail, that is fine. End of subject.

      2. I tried to be fair with you in this exchange so that you could air your grievances. But I won’t be bullied on my blog. I trust you can see yourself out.

  9. I’m embarrassed to say I’m from Alabama. And I wonder how much actual good could have been done during the time it took for people from my state to engage in hate speech on this blog.

    Final Score:

    the status quo wins
    the homeless animals lose

    1. I’m from Alaska. I’d just like to say that I appreciate the discussion and I don’t consider it hate speech. There is much to be done in this world in terms of helping critters. We are all in this together.
      Obviously, we each have egos and agendas and nobody likes to be criticized. But if we’re truly in this to help the animals (human and otherwise) we’d best get over it!
      I appreciate each and every one of you and the myriad ways you work to make life better for yourself and the creatures in your care. I appreciate this blog and the opportunity to hear other opinions, and yes, dissent. It’s allowed! (Within reason, this is her blog…)
      Thanks for sharing…carry on.

  10. I am sorry to be just now catching up on this blog post and the subsequent responses. Yesbiscuit, your passion for the no-kill issue, as usual is admirable. Thank you for being here, and for tirelessly exposing what is happening in shelters within my local region (including Robeson and Columbus counties).

    One point I need to question, though: you have once again linked to Nathan Winograd’s June 29, 2009 blog post, “Debunking Pet Overpopulation” (http://www.nathanwinograd.com/?p=1390) as your support for there being enough homes for the 3+ million pets killed (by whatever method) in American shelters each year. “We know that pet overpopulation is a myth and we have the math to prove it. There are enough homes for all the healthy/treatable pets in shelters in this country,” you state.

    I personally believe it can happen. I’ve seen rescue groups in my area pulling off miracles *week after week* in one local high-kill shelter in my area in particular, where no animals have been killed except those deemed (by the regressive high-kill municipal facility) as sick or severely aggressive (dogs). How they’ve repeatedly come up with all the fosters and adoptive homes for the poor animals on death row (many of which are being transported out of the area), I don’t know. But I admire them for it and support them in their efforts. I know that if it weren’t for the ridiculously short timeframes the “shelter(s)” give them to work with before killing the animals, their results would be really outstanding!

    But getting back to Nathan’s blog — I think it’s going to take considerably more than this to convince the average person. I’ve pointed this out before, but I’ll say it again: From *where* does Nathan get his statistics that you reference as evidence — particularly the “17-million-new-homes” statement?

    I quote from Winograd’s:

    “Other than those who will adopt from a shelter as a matter of course (those saved above), how many people in the U.S. are looking to bring a new dog or cat into their home next year but have not decided where they will get the animal and can be influenced to adopt from a shelter? 17 million. So, 17 million people for 2-3 million dogs and cats…”

    Winograd, as usual has given us no references for his statistics — not in the book, and not on his website. I’ve read “Redemption”. Although he makes strong arguments, the book suffers from a lack of documentation. Sadly, neither does the sequel, “Irreconciliable Differences” include them; if the reviews on Amazon (admittedly I have not read this book yet) are correct.

    When talking with county commisioners, shelter directors, state governors and legislators, etc., these pronunciations *will not help* convince them. They’re going to want to know from where these numbers originated; and (from their POV), if it’s an animal advocacy organization (rather than some “neutral/unpartial” source), they’re going to view them as suspect — skewed or made-up by those who have a “vested interest” (opposing their *own*, of course; but everyone *else* is biased, eh?)

    Don’t get me wrong: *I’m* not saying they’re made up. But just like the litigants on “Judge Judy,” one has to anticipate the counterpoints of the opposition, and strengthen their case in preparation for it. Instead Nathan’s strategy seems to be one of “closed comments” and self-isolation from any and all criticism, no matter how reasoned.

    Having said this, however, I see your point regarding the mixed message groups like BARC and AVRAL are sending. Although banning the gas chamber may be “one-step” *towards* a no-kill community, for them and for us, to many it may lessen the need for further reform; since (in the mind of the legislators and Average Joe Q. Public), the killing will then be done “humanely”. That’s one potential “double-edged sword” of eliminating gas-chambers.

    I question whether Allison, Netanya and Rhonda truly believe that No-Kill is possible or if they themselves have subconsciously bought into the “overpopulation” mantra; because throughout their comments I’m hearing the defeatist “but-it-can’t-happen-here” argument. That is, the population of Alabama (“the demographic miasma”) is too regressive, too cheap, too unintelligent, too lacking in compassion, too characterized by the “Bubba-factor,” too *whatever* (fill-in-the-blank with choice adjective) to see and embrace the truth. Meanwhile they sadly dub your reasoned statements in support of No-Kill and questions posed to them as “rhetoric,” “(il)logic(al),” “knee-jerk,” “preaching,” and “magic-wand (solutions)”.

    Where Allison Almand was *quoted* (not paraphrased) as saying, “It’s a very sad reality that we have to do euthanasia at all,”; if instead of “have to” she’d said, “It’s a very sad reality that animals are being killed in shelters at all” (a more accurate, objective statement), then she’d have been misquoted and mischaracterized and could (should) thereby request a correction. That didn’t happen, apparently. I’m guessing it’s because the original quote *was* correct and she (and perhaps they) have subconsciously bought into the “killing-for-population-control” philosophy. It’s a very fine distinction, I realize; but a significantly revealing one.

    1. Until you live in the area I live in I don’t think its fair for you to question my motives or what I may or may not have said wrong in an interview that I had literally an hour to prepare for. I would appreciate you not questioning my motives. I never said they paraphrased or misquoted me, I said that they left some of the things I did say regarding no kill, out of the interview and article. I AM very ANTI EUTHANASIA. I hope and pray for the day that we do not kill any animals in any shelters and I believe in Nathan Winograd’s work. BARC has plans to pursue no-kill but I am new at the activist role and am taking small steps towards introducing no-kill around here which is very difficult. I have lived across the country and seen that no kill can work and I hope it will eventually work here. However, the second it is mentioned around anyone here of consequence, including the director or our shelter and our commissioners, they think it is a myth. These things take time and I’m trying with the help of many supporters in BARC to bring no kill to our area to the best of my ability. I don’t think its fair to criticize anyone who is trying to make any kind changes for animals. I truly am doing the best I can and I truly am for no-kill facilities. You can choose to believe me or not believe me but I will stand up and fight the gas chamber here because its just a first step in the right direction for our area becoming a no kill area. I respect your response and appreciate reading your comments.

    2. Redemptionist –
      Here is a source for the numbers via a page on the Maddie’s Fund website:
      “Research conducted by Draftfcb, the internationally renowned advertising agency that is designing the campaign, has developed statistical and focus group data that will be invaluable to everyone in the animal welfare world.”

      Draftfcb is apparently one source for the numbers.

  11. I have to say I agree with Allison Allman. Trying to end the gas chamber is a great step towards no kill facilities and it is unfair for anyone to judge them and their efforts until you live in that area and know first hand what is happening there.

    1. My biggest upset is healthy animals being killed for no other reason than politics and money. However, I believe fully that the steps toward ending all gassing facilities is extremely important in the first few steps needed to be addressed in states that use gassing. Education is another and spay and neuter, however in the meantime, since there is going to be inevitably an uphill battle with a HUGE “meantime”, gassing is unacceptable and horrific and way overdue in overturning such a cruel act everywhere.
      I think often times we are all so passionate and feel we have the “right” way to go about things, we end up challenging and arguing with the very people who are on our team sharing the same goals. I truly believe that before you will ever get a no-kill state, especially in a state poorly educated on animal welfare or economically struggling, you will need to take steps, and getting rid of gassing should be right there as #1 or close to it. Killing is happening everywhere, but inhumane cruelty is happening in certain states and that needs to be addressed right away.
      I support AVRAL’s efforts and think their methods in gettin to a no-kill state is the only way to go. Lets not take things personally and work together to end needless animal suffering.

  12. I disagree on one point. Pet overpopulation is NOT a myth. I used to work at a shelter myself. They would get over 100 animals PER DAY and there were not enough cages to house them all. But I do agree that the gas chamber should be banned.

  13. So, yes biscuit…how come you can’t celebrate a triumph such as Beckham’s Law? I’d like to see you acknowledge it! It took a lot of hard work on the part of AVRAL and they were successful. That is a huge step for the animals in Alabama, but you have not seemed to acknowledge this in any way, shape, or form, all you seem to do is have a blog where you complain and criticize. If you were so interested in what was happening, I would have thought you would have followed the situation and posted about it the second it passed. Give the Alabama people some credit and get off your soapbox blog that accomplishes nothing! Way to go AVRAL, great job on ending the gas chamber! Excellent first step towards no kill!

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