Animal shelters kill 3-4 million animals every year, and some of them do it with gas chambers.
That’s right: gas chambers.
Pennsylvania recently became “the twentieth state to ban the use of gas chambers in animal shelters and animal control facilities,” The Sacramento Bee reports. The federal government is also considering a resolution to ban gas chambers, as Alicia Graef reported on Care2. It was referred to committee in the House of Representatives in July.
Lethal injections are believed to cause less suffering to the victims than gas chambers do, which explains the growing movement to outlaw the chambers.
The Association of Shelter Veterinarians (ASV) “believes that the use of carbon monoxide for individual or mass companion animal euthanasia in shelters is unacceptable due to significant humane, operational and safety concerns.” The Association lists a number of reasons gas chambers are inhumane (setting aside the fact that killing innocent, healthy animals is inhumane however it is done).
Some shelters argue that other, more humane methods of destroying homeless companion animals are too expensive. On the contrary, the ASV says studies have shown that gassing is actually more expensive than lethal injection, and HSUS agrees.
Some say there is nothing inhumane about gassing animals. You be the judge (WARNING–this video contains disturbing content):
There are plenty of objections to using gas to kill animals, as the ASV explains. Many of them have to do with the fact that “[a]ny gas that is inhaled must reach a certain concentration in the lungs before it becomes effective.” The time it takes to reach that concentration isn’t precisely known and varies among dogs, which can cause a number of problems:
- “At a 6% carbon monoxide concentration, the average time to loss of consciousness has not been precisely determined, nor is it known if the vocalization and agitation some dogs exhibit are signs of distress.”
- “Delayed absorption or circulation of the gas prolong[s] the time it takes to cause loss of consciousness and death.”
- The absorption and circulation of carbon monoxide can be delayed in “animals under 16 weeks of age; animals with decreased respiratory functions; animals who are old, sick, or injured; and animals who are pregnant.” Because “[m]any shelters are unlikely to know an animal’s age and health status … inhumane euthanasias [are] very likely to occur.”
- “Placing multiple animals in a chamber…can dilute the effective concentration of carbon monoxide that each animal receives,” which can prolong the time it takes for them to lose consciousness.
- “Minor gas leaks can cause inconsistent gas concentrations during operation which can cause extreme animal distress and suffering” before death.
Carbon monoxide has drawbacks besides the amount of time it takes for animals’ lungs to fill up with enough of the gas to knock them out:
- “Placing multiple animals in a chamber may…frighten and distress them.”
- “[L]oss of consciousness may be accompanied by convulsions and muscular spasms. It has not been clearly established that these convulsions occur only following loss of consciousness.”
- “Failure to maintain the chamber properly can result in dangerous gas leaks which are known to be hazardous to other animals.”
- “The rapid gas flow rates necessary to achieve the recommended carbon monoxide concentration of 6% can result in noise levels that frighten animals.”
- “Slowing the flow rates to lessen the noise levels will cause a delay in reaching the effective concentration of gas,” which increases “the time necessary to achieve loss of consciousness.”
Gas chambers can also pose risks to the humans who operate them.
- “Failure to maintain the chamber properly can result in dangerous gas leaks” which are “extremely hazardous to human health.”
- The gas can “cause an explosion at high concentrations,” and has resulted in the “death of at least one shelter worker.”
- “Chronic exposure to low levels of carbon monoxide can also cause serious human health problems.”
Lethal injection does not pose these risks.
The 19 states that banned gas chambers before Pennsylvania are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia, according to HSUS.
Please sign the petition below to ask your federal representatives to support the bill to ban gas chambers nationwide.