There was an explosion yesterday inside the animal gas chamber at Iredell County Animal Services shelter.
The fire department was called to contain the resulting fire. 10 dogs were inside the gas chamber at the time. The gas chamber was at the end of its cycle when the explosion occurred.
It was reported by Tracy Jackson, assistant county manager, that no one inside the office even heard the explosion. American Veterinary Medical Association guidelines for use of animal gas chambers in its 2007 Euthanasia Report state gas chambers "must be well lit and have view ports that allow personnel direct observation of animals" that are inside. It is recommended personnel remain in the room when the animals are in the chamber.
The AVMA report also states the gas chamber must not be overloaded and "the CO chamber must be of the highest quality construction and should allow for separation of individual animals".
The AVMA 2007 Euthanasia Report says that carbon monoxide gas used in animal gas chambers is "hazardous to personnel because of the risk of explosions …or health effects resulting from chronic exposure". The 2007 Report goes on to state, "The equipment used to deliver and maintain this high concentration must be in good working order and in compliance with state and federal regulations. Leaky or faulty equipment may lead to slow, distressful death and be hazardous to other animals and to personnel….Safeguards must be taken to prevent exposure of personnel. …Any electrical equipment exposed to CO (eg, lights and fans) must be explosion proof….[I]f the chamber is inside a room, CO monitors must be placed in the room to warn personnel of hazardous concentrations. It is essential that CO use be in compliance with state and federal occupational health and safety regulations".
Iredell County’s gas chamber was made of recycled parts.
One of the manufacturers of gas chambers in North Carolina is Dr. Ralph Houser, DVM, a North Carolina resident and member of the state’s Board of the North Carolina Animal Rabies Control Association. Not surprisingly, Dr. Houser advocates against the use of lethal injection or EBI, the method of euthanasia "preferred" by AVMA. It is believed by many that he is single handledly responsible for the reluctance of the state’s Board of Agriculture to ban use of this cruel, medieval device. For more on Dr. Houser, click here to read Pet Overpopulation and Euthanasia in North Carolina
Officials at Iredell County Animal Services say they will use lethal injection to euthanize animals until the vendor determines the gas chamber is safe.
When a Tennessee shelter worker died as a result of CO poisoning while he was euthanizing an animal, the state moved to make the use of the animal gas chamber illegal. Tenn. Code § 44-17-303 Sadly, more than one person in North Carolina may already have died from CO poisoning from animal gas chambers. North Carolina Coalition for Humane Euthanasia reports that recent inspections show some gas chambers have leaked high levels of carbon monoxide and endangered county employees and three county employees operating gas chambers in North Carolina have died in recent years.
This horrific incident comes at a time when North Carolina officials are revising regulations for euthanasia. In November, 2007 the Board of Agriculture published a draft of proposed rules that contained a sunset provision for use of animal gas chambers. Under that provision all chambers would be banned by January 1, 2012. The Board, however, recently dropped that provision as well as restrictions on the use of the gas chamber for sick, injured and geriatric animals. It also eliminated requirements related to training and certification of euthanasia technicians. Click here for more on this.