PA’s Ban on Animal Gas Chambers

animal gas chamber

Pennsylvania House Bill 2630 is now law.  The new law introduced by state Rep. John Maher on September 21, 2012 moved quickly through the House of Representatives and state Senate. The measure was signed into law by Gov. Tom Corbett on October 24, 2012.

A similar measure offered by state Sen. Andrew Dinniman, S.B. 1329, had been pending for some time.

Under the new law it is illegal to kill animals by use of carbon monoxide gas, choloroform, ether, halothane, fluothane, drowning or any means deemed unacceptable by the American Veterinary Medical Association. Use of a high altitude decompression chamger or decompression device was already illegal. Unfortunately, an exception is made for animals subject to normal agricultural operations. The new law also does not apply to veterinarians or research facilities; the law already excluded medical and veterinary schools and research facilities associated with a hospital or university.

All devices or chambers made illegal by this law must be dismantled.

Small domestic animals that are not considered dangerous and do not pose an imminent threat to humans or animals, can only be put to death by use of a “commercially available injectable euthanasia solution”. Small domestic animals are any of the following if they are kept and cared for as household pets – all cats and dogs, amphibians, reptiles, birds, ferrets, guinea pigs, hamsters, rats, mice and rabbits. If the solution becomes unavailable, methods approved by the Board of Veterinary Medicine and AVMA other than those prohibited can be used to euthanize these animals. Animals other than these small domestic animals can be euthanized by any method listed as acceptable by AVMA except, again, those prohibited in the new law.

If small domestic animals are deemed dangerous and pose an imminent threat to human or animal life, they may be killed by any means except those prohibited by the new law. It is not clear if this now means some commercial dog breeders required to use humane euthanasia for dogs under 3 P.S. Sec. 459-207 can declare their dogs are dangerous and a risk to humans or other animals and simply shoot them or otherwise use cruel methods to kill them. It certainly means shelters can do so.

The new law provides for issuance of a limited license to allow animal shelters and rescues to obtain and administer euthanasia drugs and authorizes the Board of Veterinary Medicine to issue regulations for licensing criteria and certification and oversight of certified euthanasia technicians. The bill sets forth basic criteria that must be met for the Board to issue a license for a certified euthanasia technician.

The Board or if approved by the Board, the Dept. of Agriculture could inspect the shelter or rescue to assure compliance. A veterinarian or animal shelter or rescue must disclose upon request all methods of euthanasia used for small domestic animals.

Fines for persons or animal shelters or rescues “not authorized or licensed …that [are] found in violation” could be up to $500 per “violation day” and up to $1,000 per violation day for second and subsequent offenses. The Board can impose civil fines up to $10,000 for any violations of the restrictions under the new law.

number of Pennsylvania jurisdictions are still using carbon monoxide gas to kill animals in their care.

Most recently Alabama and a number of other states have banned use of these cruel, medieval devices.

The AVMA is considering new euthanasia guidelines that would recommend against use of animal gas chambers for “routine euthanasia” of dogs and cats. Previously, use of gas chambers was conditionally acceptable to the AVMA, which under S.B. 1329 would make them illegal.

In September, 2010, the National Animal Control Association (NACA) adopted a policy: “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.”

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.”

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