Though the fine print of the American Veterinary Medical Association’s past Euthanasia Reports contain strong evidence of the cruelty and danger of carbon monoxide gas chambers used to kill shelter animals, the AVMA has continued to insist such use of the medieval devices in animal shelters is "acceptable".
The AVMA has finally agreed in its 2013 Guidelines for Euthanasia of Animals that carbon monoxide gas chambers are not recommended for “routine euthanasia” in dogs and cats. Of course, AVMA buries this recommendation in a chart on p. 99 of the report. And AVMA still does not condemn use of CO gas chambers in killing shelter animals. The AVMA would still find use of a carbon monoxide gas chamber acceptable for dogs and cats as long as it is not used routinely. it is an important step forward. An Ohio appeals court recently cited AVMA’s 2013 statement CO gas chambers are not recommended for “routine euthanasia” in finding these medieval devices are inhumane and their use violates state law.
Until now the AVMA has claimed use of carbon monoxide gas chambers is an "acceptable" method of "euthanasia". The AVMA’s stance has been seen as a green light for shelters to continue to use this outmoded, barbaric means of killing animals.
Many never read the AVMA’s fine print.
The AVMA has stated CO gas chambers are "acceptable" as a means of killing as long as the proverbial camel fits through the eye of a needle. The AVMA envisions a laboratory setting rather than the reality, which is untrained shelter staff shoving animals into a gas chamber, turning it on and leaving the room. The AVMA’s 2013 Guidelines on Euthanasia of Animals states: (1) Personnel using CO must be instructed thoroughly in its use and must understand its hazards and limitations. (2) The CO chamber must be of the highest-quality construction and should allow for separation of individual animals. If animals need to be combined, they should be of the same species, and, if needed, restrained or separated so that they will not hurt themselves or others. Chambers should not be overloaded and need to be kept clean to minimize odors that might distress animals that are subsequently euthanized. (3) The CO source and chamber must be located in a well-ventilated environment, preferably out-of-doors. (4) The chamber must be well lighted and must allow personnel direct observation of animals. (5) The CO flow rate should be adequate to rapidly achieve a uniform CO concentration of at least 6% after animals are placed in the chamber, except for those species (eg, neonatal pigs) where it has been shown that less agitation occurs with a gradual rise in CO concentration. (6) If the chamber is inside a room, CO monitors must be placed in the room to warn personnel of hazardous concentrations. (7) It is essential that CO use be in compliance with state and federal occupational health and safety regulations. (8) Carbon monoxide must be supplied in a precisely regulated and purified form without contaminants or adulterants, typically from a commercially supplied cylinder or tank. The direct application of products of combustion or sublimation is not acceptable due to unreliable or undesirable composition and/or displacement rate. As gas displacement rate is critical to the humane application of CO, an appropriate pressure-reducing regulator and flow meter combination or equivalent equipment with demonstrated capability for generating the recommended displacement rate for the size container being utilized is absolutely necessary.
On top of that, AVMA has never recommended use of the CO gas chamber for animals under 16 weeks of age or which might have difficulty breathing like pregnant, old, ill, or injured animals.
Then there has been the endless list of safety requirements because CO gas is dangerous, and shelter staff are at risk from CO poisoning when they load and unload or clean the gas chamber, breathing in low levels of the gas on a regular basis. Not to mention the risk of explosions such as have occurred at the Iredell County and Lincoln County, North Carolina public shelters.
See what we mean about the fine print? But there’s more.
Buried in AVMA’s 2013 Guidelines on Euthanasia of Animals is the admission that has been in its previous Euthanasia reports: "Reptiles, amphibians, and diving birds and mammals have a great capacity for holding their breath and anaerobic metabolism. Therefore, induction of anesthesia and time to loss of consciousness when using inhalants may be greatly prolonged. Other techniques may be more appropriate for these species."
Translation: Most animals including mammals like dogs and cats, can hold their breath and it may take a long time before they actually inhale enough CO gas to lose consciousness and they will suffer terribly in the meantime.
The AVMA’s new direction is more in line with the National Animal Control Association (NACA) which in September 2010, issued the following policy statement: "NACA considers lethal injection of sodium pentobarbital, administered by competent, trained personnel, to be the only method of choice utilized for humane euthanasia of animal shelter dogs and cats."
Also, the Association of Shelter Veterinarians agrees, stating flatly 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…[C]arbon monoxide euthanasia should be banned in shelters."
Read the statement here by Paul Caravan, a witness to a CO gassing in North Carolina, and go here to read a number of statements from witnesses to the use of the gas chamber to kill animals.
Go here to help stop use of the gas chamber in Davidson County, North Carolina and find information about dangers to humans including reports of explosions and inspections revealingt gas chambers found to be leaking CO gas…
Find Animal Law Coalition’s 3 part series on gas chambers in North Carolina.