Guest editorial |

Guest editorial

End gas chamber as a way to kill homeless animals

Kathleen Toth
President and CEO of Nuzzles & Co. Pet Rescue and Adoption

This year, the Utah Legislature will consider a bill to ban the use of gas chambers in city and county shelters in Utah. All citizens should urge their representatives and senators to vote in favor of this ban. Euthanasia for an animal is never easy. If you’ve ever put a beloved pet to sleep, then you know how hard it is to say goodbye. Yet, at the end of the cat or dog’s life, there is peace in a quiet room, the embrace of someone who cares, and sleep comes quickly and easily.
Contrast that with what happens when a cat or dog is placed inside a gas chamber and killed. Homeless cats and dogs already frightened and alone, are placed into a small, dark box that contains the smell of the animals killed before them. Often, they are stuffed into the chamber with several other animals.
Under the best circumstances, it takes minutes before a frightened animal loses consciousness inside the chamber. If the chamber is old, or not calibrated, a frequent issue for many shelters, death can take much longer. Sometimes an animal may be forced through this process more than once. And, if a cat or dog is very young (thousands of kittens are killed in this way), very old, ill, injured or stressed, it can take much longer. Often, the animals struggle for air, claw and call for a way out, convulse and then, finally, lose consciousness.
In the worst cases, the animal is still conscious while its vital organs begin to shut down and they cry out. It’s a slow, cruel and painful way for an animal to suffer and die. It’s also a cruel task to ask another human being to extinguish an animal’s life in this way.
While we need to move past the time when killing a companion animal simply because they are homeless is an acceptable practice to control pet populations, until we do, city and county shelters need to use a more compassionate and humane way to euthanize animals. The American Veterinary Medical Association has declared that euthanasia by injection is the most humane method of euthanasia currently available. Euthanasia by injection is as cost-effective if not less expensive than the gas chamber for euthanasia. The animal may be pre-sedated and can be gently held in the arms of a technician or shelter worker as opposed to being forced into a small chamber and forced to die by affixation.
We now have the opportunity to make a real difference in animal welfare in Utah in the 2017 legislative session. The same ban was proposed in the 2016 legislative session. Sadly, the bill failed to pass and county and city shelters in Utah—seven in all—that utilize the gas chambers as a method of killing homeless pets continued to do so.
This year, Utah’s Republican Senator Peter Knudsen has once again introduced a bill that would put an end to gas chambers in Utah as an acceptable means of euthanasia. SB 56 provides that death by lethal injection would be the only acceptable means of euthanizing a homeless cat or dog in Utah’s shelters or wildlife.
No cat or dog’s last breath should be one of terror and suffering when more humane and compassionate alternatives exist. This year should be the last year for gas chambers in Utah. Encourage your representative and senator to vote in favor of SB 56.

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