4 gas chambers remain in America to kill shelter animals (Sept 2021)

The Utah Animal Rights Coalition said that there are only four animal shelters in the USA that still euthanise pets in gas chambers. My research indicates that we are talking about carbon monoxide gas chambers. You can also get carbon dioxide gas chambers. As I understand it, the four remaining gas chambers referred to operate on carbon monoxide but I’m happy to be corrected.

Two of these gas chambers remain in Utah, one at the North Utah Valley Animal Shelter and the other at the South Utah Valley Animal Shelter in Spanish Fork. Animal rights advocates are strongly against gas chambers for euthanising shelter animals. They consider it inhumane for various reasons.

The Humane Society’s photo of a gas chamber that Heber City Animal Services used in the past, which was removed in 2014

The Humane Society’s photo of a gas chamber that Heber City Animal Services used in the past, which was removed in 2014. Photo: the society (believed)

The director of the Utah Animal Rights Coalition, Jeremy Beckham, said that he has extensively researched whether euthanasia by barbiturates is better than euthanasia by carbon monoxide gassing. He said that there is no reason to continue killing animals through carbon monoxide gas because it is outdated, inhumane and cruel.

He said that it can take as long as 30 minutes for an animal to die through carbon monoxide gassing and some animals survived the first attempt and require multiple attempts before they die. Apparently, in 2011 a cat at the West Valley City Animal Shelter did not die after two rounds in a carbon monoxide gas chamber. And in Missouri a shelter stopped using their gas chamber after experiencing the unsettling sight of a dog gasping for air before collapsing and dying about 10 minutes later.

Killing shelter animals should be pure euthanasia. Euthanasia means a good death and a good death means that it should be pain free, stress free and fear free. The gas chamber does not qualify under those criteria. Although, I can’t think of any animal who has been stress-free when being euthanised by a veterinarian using barbiturates.

It is said that euthanasia through drugs is safer and cheaper and more humane. It is easy to switch from gas chambers to drugs. Further, carbon monoxide poisoning can present an occupational hazard to shelter workers. Accidents can happen and a shelter worker in Tennessee died from inhaling gas when operating a gas chamber (as reported by The Daily Universe).

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has guidelines on the euthanasia of animals which states that the preferred method is injection of a barbiturate or barbituric acid derivative combined with proper handling of the animal.

They do, however, state that euthanasia through inhaling carbon monoxide gas is acceptable with conditions. The conditions include that the gas chamber should be of high quality and that it allows for the separation of individual animals. It should not be overloaded and should be kept clean to avoid odours which distress animals.

The AVMA say that it is difficult to maintain these conditions and there may be a risk to personnel of hypoxia if safety precautions are not observed. The AVMA does not recommend carbon monoxide gassing for routine euthanasia of cats and dogs. They do seem to accept the fact that it might be used under certain emergency conditions such as natural disasters or large-scale disease outbreaks.

The director of the shelter, which appears to be retaining their carbon monoxide gas chamber, South Utah Valley Animal Shelter, Kierstan Munford, has stated that the shelter “meets or exceeds” the conditions required for using carbon monoxide. I presume that she is referring to the AVMA conditions. She claims that carbon monoxide gassing is superior to other methods and more humane. They said is safer and less traumatic for workers euthanising animals.

They claim that carbon monoxide gassing causes loss of consciousness without pain and the animal does not understand what is going, plus it works quickly. They also claim that animal rights advocates mislead the public in making claims that are untrue and misleading. They say that one claim that animal rights people make about carbon monoxide poisoning which is untrue is that animals try to claw their way out of the chamber. The shelter staff have never seen this happen after 15 years of carbon monoxide euthanasia in a gas chamber.

Apparently, some animal rights groups have been stating that gas chambers incinerate the animals to death. I’m not sure why they state that because it is obviously untrue even to a layperson. The chamber does not produce heat. In response to that, Jamie Beckham said that it is untrue that they claimed that these gas chambers incinerate animals. The point that they were making is that carbon monoxide is a flammable gas and if the chamber malfunctions, it can set the gas alight and explode. Apparently, this is happened on occasions.

It appears that the South Utah Valley Animal Shelter is not going to do away with the carbon oxide gas chamber. That being the case it appears that they are going to be the last shelter in the country to have one. Nathan Winograd, “The voice of America’s displaced pets and the conscience of the animal sheltering industry” states that “Utah is one shelter away from eliminating the gas chamber to kill animals”. He must be referring to the South Utah Valley Animal Shelter.

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 74-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare. If you want to read more click here.

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