A Grass Roots Effort to Shut Down CO Gas Chambers in TX

animal shelterSulphur Springs, Texas city councilor Craig Johnson stepped up to lead an effort to ban the use of carbon monoxide gas chambers in that city’s animal shelter. 

And he won.

Convinced that lethal injection by sodium pentobarbital is more humane and less costly, Johnson worked with animal control officer, Denise Stinson, to win approval from the city council.

They had a lot of help as opponents of using carbon monoxide animal gas chambers, crowded the city council meeting room last week. The city council agreed with Johnson that switching to lethal injection is "the right thing to do".

Texas law allows only two methods of killing shelter animals: (1) humane euthanasia by lethal injection of sodium pentobarbital administered by a trained employee out of the sight and away from other animals in a quiet area. Intracardiac injection is not permitted unless the animal is heavily sedated, unconscious or comatose;  

(2) commercially compressed carbon monoxide gas in a commercially manufactured chamber or one designed and constructed to "equal the effectiveness" of a commercially manufactured unit as long as the animals are 16 weeks of age or older or are not elderly, sick, injured, or pregnant that might have impaired breathing capacity; there are also a number of requirements that basically track the American Veterinary Medical Association guidelines in its 2007 euthanasia report:

The chamber must be located outdoors or in a well-ventilated room and be airtight with a flow regulator, flow meter, gas concentration gauge, temperature gauge, exhaust fan, and, if indoors, an alarm, explosion proof equipment, view ports with sufficient lighting, and a way to separate animals. The temperature must be kept to 85 degrees C and the gas concentration process must reach at least a 6% carbon monoxide gas concentration within 5 minutes, not to exceed 10% due to flammability and explosiveness.  

Death should occur within 5 minutes, and the chamber must be vented and cleaned. 

The laws also require training for personnel posting of operational and safety instructions.

Only compatible animals of the same species may be placed in the chamber simultaneously, and no animal may be placed in the chamber with a dead one. Animals must be monitored during the euthanasia process.  Texas Administrative Code §169.84

catsThe city council relied on the 2009 North Carolina cost analysis  that established lethal injection is actually cheaper.  A copy of the full study is attached below for downloading. A 2000 study by Western Pennsylvania Humane Society reached the same conclusion.

According to www.stopgassingTexaspets.com, which has been spurring Texas counties and cities to stop gassing shelter animals, these other public shelters use carbon monoxide gas chambers: Baytown, Commerce, El Campo, Garland, Gatesville, Gonzales, Greenville, Henderson, Muleshoe, Orange, Paris, San Marcos (kills animals for Hays County and the city of Kyle), Seagoville and Seguin.

Both the AVMA and the National Animal Control Association state that lethal injection by sodium pentobarbital is the preferred method for euthanasia.

Indeed, even if used according to AVMA guidelines, carbon monoxide gas chambers are ghastly.  For more, read this account of an Alabama animal control officer, about the court decisions in Georgia concerning the cruelty of CO gas chambers, and about the battle in North Carolina to ban CO gas chambers.

These medieval devices are dangerous for humans too. In 2009 and recently this year, 2010, carbon monoxide gas chambers exploded in North Carolina.  A Tennessee shelter worker died from CO poisoning which prompted the state to ban them. North Carolina CO gas chambers are inspected, and reports show many present a danger to workers because of leaking CO gas. You will find attached below for downloading a compilation of information about dangers of CO gas chambers to humans.

Go here for information about states that have banned the CO gas chambers for killing animals.