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States seek to ban use of gas chamber for pet euthanasia

by Therese on April 2, 2009

in Cats, Dogs

Remember Grace, the dog who survived the gas chamber in Georgia a few years ago? She suffered for thirty minutes before someone opened the door and found her clinging to life. Sadly, many cats and dogs are killed in this very same way in many states across the country. Six states however, are trying to put an end to it.

Six states are considering proposals to ban carbon monoxide gas chamber use in animal shelters as a means of euthanasia, in response to animal rights supporters who say the process is inhumane.

Georgia, Illinois, North Carolina, New York, West Virginia and Pennsylvania have legislation pending, according to Kimberley Intino, director of the Shelter Services Program for The Humane Society of the United States. Twelve states already ban it, she says.


The new legislation is being met with some opposition from veterinary medical groups. Jane Williston, president of the North Carolina Veterinary Medical Association, acknowledges injection is the preferred method, but says there is a danger using it on aggressive feral animals.

“Dogs and cats in shelters, most often, are not of the same temperament and you are not in the same controlled environment that you are in your veterinarian hospital … there is nothing kind, gentle or stress-free about it,” she says.

The method is either legal or not referenced in state laws governing animal euthanasia in 37 states and the District of Columbia, Intino says.

Virginia became the latest state to stop using gas chambers in 2008, Intino says. More states are looking at it, she says, because “the general public, as well as the people working specifically in animal welfare, are just simply becoming more educated about carbon monoxide as a form of euthanasia.”

See USA Today for more of the story about banning the use of gas chambers to euthanize cats and dogs in animal shelters.

According to the Humane Society of the United States, these are the twelve states that currently ban the use of gas chambers:

  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • New Jersey
  • Oregon
  • Rhode Island
  • Tennessee
  • Virginia

In Georgia, the state that tried to gas Grace to death, a judge has recently issued a permanent injunction against illegal use of gas chambers. However, the Humane Association of Georgia contends there may be valid reasons to use them.

We believe there may be valid exceptions to lethal injection, such as feral animals, animals with collapsed veins, diseased rats, or a rabid fox or raccoon. Special techniques and equipment, such as squeeze cages and pre-sedation for aggressive animals can limit exceptions or exceptions could be handled by a veterinarian.

Recent statistics from the Georgia Department of Agriculture show there are 32 gas chambers in Georgia. Fourteen are “used for routine euthanasia” (4 grandfathered by continuous use and 10 in counties with populations less than 25,000), 8 still in service though not used routinely, and 10 no longer used. The high upfront cost, public opposition and possible health hazards should be seriously considered before purchasing a chamber. Officers have been killed or sickened by malfunctioning chambers, much like malfunctioning generators in homes during the winter.

Grace isn’t the only dog to survive the gas chamber. Quentin is another. The fact that both of these dogs survived makes me wonder how many others survived the ordeal. And it absolutely makes me sick to my stomach to think about the countless other cats and dogs that fought long and hard, gasping for air, before they died. The gas chamber is absolutely barbaric, and I find it appalling that only twelve states so far have banned the use of these torture chambers! I certainly hope the six that are working on it now can get the laws changed, and that others follow suit.

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