Animals In Print
The On-Line Newsletter
From 10 January 2007 Issue
Help Ensure Humane Euthanasia in North Carolina's Animal Shelters
Urge State Dept. of Agriculture to replace gas chambers with lethal injection
It is tragic that more than a quarter of a million dogs, cats and other animals must be euthanized in North Carolina's shelters every year. For lack of space and good homes, the average shelter in the state destroys about 90% of the animals received. Even though the increasing focus on spaying and neutering efforts has effectively reduced the number of homeless animals in recent years, euthanization remains an unfortunate reality many shelters face in dealing with the animal companion overpopulation crisis.
While euthanizing homeless animals may currently be the most viable way of dealing with the crisis for the individuals doing society's dirty work, the end doesn't have to be painful. Unfortunately, it is for thousands of animals put down every year in North Carolina shelters, approximately 40 of which still use carbon monoxide gas chambers. Death by asphyxiation causes stress, anxiety and physical pain. Once put inside the sealed chamber, animals supposedly become unconscious within one minute. However, those last few moments of their lives can be extremely terrifying.
According to euthanasia expert Doug Fakkema, "The animal is in a warm or hot box, usually with other animals. They don't know what's going on. The hiss of the gas is going on inside. They get dizzy, and they panic. Fights can break out, and animals' calls can sometimes be heard." It takes animals about half an hour to actually suffocate to death. Some animals have even made it out of the gas chamber alive, underscoring the unreliability of the method.
Chronic exposure to carbon monoxide gas also adversely affects the physical and mental health of the hundreds of shelter staff who perform this difficult task every year. Long-term, irreversible medical problems such as heart muscle damage, neurological disorders and multiple sclerosis can result from regular contact with this dangerous compound. Psychologically and emotionally, killing unwanted animals is difficult enough on the people hired to do it without the added trauma of having to hear dogs bark in fear as they die.
In contrast, lethal injection with sodium pentobarbital, the most humane form of euthanasia according to the AVMA, is painless for animals and poses no health risks to those who administer it. Animals are rendered unconscious almost immediately after the drug enters the bloodstream, and death follows soon after. This allows animals to die peacefully and with as little pain as possible.
The North Carolina Department of Agriculture is currently preparing new state euthanasia guidelines for animal shelters, and it seems they plan to continue to allow the use of gas chambers, specifically listing them in state law for the first time.
Please write a letter to Dr. Lee Hunter at the North Carolina Department of Agriculture respectfully urging him to institute regulations banning the use of gas chambers and requiring euthanization procedures to be conducted with lethal injection.
You can use the information above as a guide to writing your letter.
Also please request that the use of "heartstick" injections without
anesthesia or sedation be specifically excluded from the new
Lee Hunter, DVM, MPH
Director, Animal Welfare Section
Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
1030 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699-1030
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