Craven County NC Stops Use of Gas Chamber

Part 3 in Animal Law Coalition’s series on use of carbon monoxide gas chambers in North Carolina. For a look at Part 1….  and for a look at Part 2…. 

Update March 20, 2012: Craven County discontinued use of its gas chamber for dogs and cats about a month ago. Craven County Board of Commissioners Chairman Lee K. Allen said, "Attitudes and the philosophy of dealing with animals have changed and that lethal injection is probably more aligned with present public sentiment." County officials also cited public safety and cost of upgrades that would soon be required as the primary reasons for the switch to lethal injection as a means of euthanasia for shelter animals.

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) is even considering not recommending the CO gas chamber for "routine euthanasia" of dogs and cats.  Though it is not clear AVMA will abandon its longime support for carbon monoxide gas chambers.

For more on the fight to stop use of gas chambers in Nnorth Carolina, read Animal Law Coalition’s 3 part series on North Carolina gas chambers (Part 3 is below and follow the links above to read Parts 1 and 2. Also, go here.

Original report Feb. 12, 2011: An inspection of the Lincoln County gas chamber revealed leaks of carbon monoxide. Just days after the county claimed to have repaired the leaks, in Oct. 2009, the gas chamber exploded, and the heavy metal door blew open. A worker, Joe Davidson, was seriously injured and is likely to suffer effects from CO poisoning in the future.  

Davidson said he had just put some animals to sleep and was planning to empty the CO gas chamber when a fiery blast blew the heavy metal door open, striking his side and burning his arm. "All of a sudden it just — kaboom — and here come the door open, and here come a ball of flame out," he said.

Now in 2011 the county has finally stopped using the CO gas chamber to kill shelter animals. Lincoln County Director of EMS and Animal Control, Ron Rombs, explains: "The decision to shut down the gas chamber stemmed partly from the community’s negative response to the shelter still using the gas chamber when many other animal shelters use lethal injection to put down animals".  Also, Rombs watched a video of animals being gassed to death and thought it was "devastating" and "horrible." "Carbon monoxide death in people happens every day and people think you just doze off to sleep or you don’t wake up," he said. "People think that is a normal means or peaceful means of dying because they just didn’t wake up. These animals are wide awake. The literature says they are frightened and when you think about it, there is a couple of seconds going through their mind when they think, ‘I can’t breathe. Something is happening to me’ and they don’t understand what is going on."

The Association of Shelter Veterinarians agree.

By way of an update on Nash County which ALC reported about in Part 2 of its look at North Carolina CO gas chambers:  A recently obtained 2009 Nash County Health Dept. inspection pointed out there was a "likelihood" of an explosion just like the one at Lincoln County. The report recommends disconnecting "afterburners" that can cause fires or explosions. The report goes on to note that the PVC pipe used to carry exhaust from the gas chamber could cause sparks. The report also notes in simply handling this equipment, employees could be exposed to CO gas.

Remember that in July, 2008, in fact, in Iredell County the gas chamber exploded with 10 dogs crammed inside. An employee was present at the time, and other workers were in the next room. For more on that….. The gas chamber, as it turns out, was made of reconstituted parts. Yet, Iredell County is insistent in continuing to use these death contraptions to kill shelter animals.

To add to the concern, the state actually allows gas chamber manufacturers to do their own inspections! The North Carolina Dept. of Agriculture and Consumer Services ("Dept."), which regulates shelters, is supposed to enforce regulations for the use of carbon monoxide gas chambers. Instead, the job of inspecting the chambers has been abandoned to manufacturers with an interest in profits, not finding problems with their equipment. 

22 CO gas chambers remain in use for North Carolina shelters. Though as ALC reported in Part 2 of its series on NC CO gas chambers, it appeared Gaston County would stop using the device, it has not done so.  

Attached below for downloading is a list of North Carolina inspection reports and findings as well as studies that prove just how cruel CO gas chambers are for animals and dangerous for the shelter workers. You will also find a list of North Carolinians who have want CO gas chambers banned.  (For other information, check Part 1 and Part 2 of Animal Law Coalition’s series on gas chambers.)


More states are banning use of CO gas chambers to kill shelter animals. In 2009 Davie’s Law, a bill introduced in the North Carolina legislature, would have made humane euthanasia by lethal injection the only legal means of ending the lives of shelter animals. 

Learn why the AVMA’s own Euthanasia Report supports an end to CO gas chambers. Contact the AVMA here and urge the AVMA to support an end to use of CO gas chambers to kill shelter animals.