Opposition to Banning the Gas Chamber in MI

MI is looking at legislation to ban the use of the gas chamber for killing shelter pets.  There are eleven county animal control units still gassing pets in the state and one of those counties is Berrien.  Berrien’s County Administrator Bill Wolf is opposed to the bill for several reasons:

1.  Although three AC employees have received the required training in euthanasia by injection, the shelter doesn’t have a kill room.  (An obviously insurmountable obstacle.)

2.  If killing via carbon monoxide poisoning is banned, it’s a slippery slope to ending the killing of all healthy/treatable pets.  (Oh noes!)

3.  Also on that slippery slope is mandatory spay-neuter.  If we stop gassing pets, next thing you know we’ll be voting on MSN.  (mkaaaaay.  Well if that happens and you are opposed, I guess you should vote no.)

4.  There is a $5000 grant available from a private contributor to counties who switch from gassing to injection.  Mr. Wolf opposes that because, “Private financial incentives should not drive public policy”.  (Heaven forfend we mix private money with politics – that could be the downfall of our government!)

and finally:

5.  Think of the raptors!  Shelter pets killed with sodium pentobarbital and then dumped in open landfills get eaten by raptors.  The drug remains in the carcass for some time after death and has killed some birds.  I’m assuming Mr. Wolf does not drive a car, use herbicides, buy food grown with pesticides, or make use of power lines – all of which are significant threats to raptors.  (If my assumption is wrong, his argument rings a bit hollow for me.)

While I disagree with Mr. Wolf’s reasons for opposing the end of gassing in his state, I am also disturbed by his attitude toward his community’s pets:

Although rescue organizations have no responsibility for public safety and can choose which animals they take in, county animal control departments do not have that luxury, Wolf said.

“We’re dealing with the worst of the worst,” he said, and as a public safety agency, animal control is required to pick up all strays.

The worst of the worst.  Way to promote adoption in your county Mr. Wolf.  With friends like you, your shelter’s pets don’t need gas chambers.

Thank you Heather H. for alerting me to this issue.

That Tingle Means It’s Working!

GA legislators approved a bill to end the use of the gas chamber in the state yesterday and sent it to the Governor for signing.  The approval was not unanimous however:

But in voting against the bill, Sen. Bill Heath, a Republican from Bremen, championed the merits of gas as the most humane way for animals – and humans – to die.

From the well, Heath recounted a story in which he was working on his car and got overcome by carbon monoxide gas. He said he experienced a “drowsy, euphoric” feeling. No pain at all.

“I wasn’t worried about anything. There was nothing adverse about the feeling and I knew that this feeling good was a bad sign,” Heath said. “I can understand why people use it to commit suicide.”

Well, isn’t that special?  Needless to say, the comments sparked some outrage:

“Between 1941 and 1945 there were about 6 million people who would disagree with you about that gas,” said Sen. Steve Thompson (D-Marietta). “I can’t think of anyone who would support that method when you have another.”

[…]

Added Gloria Butler (D-Stone Mountain): “For a senator to come to well and say [Carbon Monoxide gas] makes you feel good is inconceivable.”

Senator Heath explained himself later:

“I do know that gas is a lot less traumatic than a needle. I know that first hand. When I get a shot, I jump even now. And I don’t think there is a soul in this building that would want to hurt an animal.”

So basically, because Senator Heath is afraid of needles and because he had a swell time huffing car exhaust once, he wants all the shelter pets in his state to share his personal experiences.  I guess GA shelter pets can be glad the good Senator did not report getting a kick out of smoking crack.

Also, FYI Senator Heath, if no one in the building wants to hurt an animal, you could actually stop killing friendly pets in GA and start sheltering them instead.  Just a suggestion.

Pamper Your Pet with a Luxurious Visit to the Gas Chamber

The Idaho Falls Animal Shelter’s gas chamber broke down beyond repair and they couldn’t come up with the $30,000 to buy a new one.  So the shelter is now killing pets by lethal injection.  Irene Brown is the shelter manager and while she recognizes that many pet advocates oppose the use of the gas chamber, she maintains that death by gas chamber is just as humane as death by lethal injection:

She said that although the animals do “vocalize” sometimes, it’s mainly because they feel tingly as they fall unconscious.

Ooh, they feel all tingly as they pleasantly drift off… sounds delightful – like a spa treatment!

“They don’t know what’s happening to them, so they vocalize. It’s not because they’re in pain,” she said.

She doesn’t share how she knows this (perhaps she’s an animal communicator who has talked with the spirits of pets she’s killed in the gas chamber?) but I would contend that an animal vocalizing because “they don’t know what’s happening to them” is an animal in a state of panic and fear.  Not exactly “humane” to my mind.

The entire process of gassing animals takes about 20 minutes, compared with just seconds using a lethal injection of sodium pentobarbital.

20 minutes.  I know the animals are not conscious for that entire time but I don’t know with any certainty how long it takes the average pet to reach a state of oblivion in the gas chamber.  And however long that takes, with the pet in a state of panic, choking on carbon monoxide and crying out – it’s too long.

Then of course you have pets who fall outside the “average” gas chamber victims:

Over two years ago a litter of kittens was brought into the Chubbuck Animal Control Facility in eastern Idaho.

The decision was made to euthanize the kittens, which were deemed too diseased and sick with distemper to be adopted out. The litter was dispatched in the shelter’s gas chamber – but there was a survivor.

“One kitten had crawled underneath the others,” said Officer Tim Hancock, director of animal control for the Chubbuck Police Department.

“He’s our shelter cat, Lucky,” said Hancock, explaining that a co-worker took the black-and-white tuxedo kitten home and nursed him to health.

“We figured if he made it, then there’s a reason he made it.”

Too sick to be sheltered but too vital to die in the gas chamber – does this make sense?

“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.