Mixed Messages on Banning the Gas Chamber
October 3, 2010
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.