Clarifications on policy to end NC animal shelter euthanasia by gassing

News broke this past week from the North Carolina Department of Agriculture Animal Welfare Section, where an announcement was made that carbon monoxide gassing will no longer be an accepted form of euthanasia in NC animal shelters effective February 15th 2015. Much of this was covered in the 2013 AVMA Euthanasia Guidelines.

Letter on euthanasia by gas

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Letter on euthanasia by gas

The six remaining shelters to use carbon monoxide gassing in North Carolina are Granville, Wilkes, Davidson, Beaufort, Union and Randolph counties. Now these shelters will have to provide a valid reason and plan if they need an extension on the deadline. Randolph County allegedly failed an inspection of their facility this month, which means those in government may finally be listening as advocates work to make gassing shelters a thing of the past.


Dr. Patricia Norris, new Director of the Animal Welfare Section of the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is credited with this win in the animal advocacy world. Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler recommended Patricia highly saying

“She has unique mix of experience with private practice and public service that will serve the department well.”

Patricia also worked in both North Carolina, as well as New Mexico where she provides veterinary forensic services for their cases of animal cruelty and animal crime, and is commonly asked to assist other law enforcement agencies throughout New Mexico. North Carolina is fortunate to have Patricia come on board, as some of the worst shelters in the south are located within the state.


A lot of people are unaware that the gas chamber will still be there, and that only limitations on who can operate the chamber and under what conditions has changed. Listed below are some key points of the standards.

North Carolina 1 Section 0400 – Euthanasia Standards 2 3 02 NCAC 52J .0401euthanasia standards section .0400


Only a Certified Euthanasia Technician, Probationary Euthanasia Technician, or a veterinarian licensed to practice veterinary medicine in North Carolina may euthanize an animal in a certified animal shelter. A Certified Euthanasia Technician shall not euthanize animals using a method for which he or she is not currently certified except as specified in 02 NCAC 52J .0700.

This brings us to “extraordinary circumstances”


For purposes of this section, extraordinary circumstance or situation includes a situation which is offsite from the shelter, in which an animal poses an immediate risk to animal, human or public health and in which no alternative, less extreme measure of euthanasia is feasible. This also covers the use of gas euthanasia, should an animal be too ill or injured to move to a place that offers lethal injection euthanasia.

This also covers animals found during rare or unusual circumstances, natural disasters or large-scale disease outbreaks. Should any of these occur, the person doing the gassing doesn’t have to be certified to kill. They will be required to keep a report on any animal killed using carbon monoxide. The new policy should end the routine gassing of cats and dogs, just be aware the gas chamber itself may still be on-site at a North Carolina shelter.

Gassing will also be prohibited on animals under 16 weeks of age, animals near death and pregnant animals.


Training will be required to become a Certified Euthanasia Technician. This includes a classroom lecture covering the entire list of subjects in Paragraph (b) of this Rule, and the student must score 80% or higher on a written test provided by the Animal Welfare Section demonstrating knowledge and then passing a practical exam in each euthanasia method the applicant is seeking certification in. In other words, a regular volunteer or jail inmate working at the shelter can’t euthanize an animal. There are a lot of community service programs in the Carolinas that allow an inmate to participate in animal shelter programs to reduce jail time. Also, applicants are not eligible for certification if they have been convicted of a felony offense or a crime or infraction involving animal abuse or neglect.


While there may still be gassing by carbon monoxide, the day to day occurrence in the deaths of shelter pets by uncertified staff should come to an end as of February 15, 2015. If any of the readers know more about the new policies, please feel free to leave a comment and fill in anything I may have overlooked. I encourage all of you to read the entire PDF document to better understand the changes.

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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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15 Responses

  1. Dee (Florida) says:

    This policy is pretty much nothing.
    Banning means banning all the way.
    I’m baffled by, if an animal is too injured or ill to move, they will be gassed. Just HOW do they get the animal to the chamber if they can’t be moved?
    Is there anyone that can’t believe that a syringe full of phenobarbital isn’t transportable to a suffering animal that can’t be moved?
    Just a smoke screen in an effort to please the public.

  2. Ginger Newman says:

    I was wondering the same.

  3. Jean white says:

    “…the day to day occurrence in the deaths of shelter pets by uncertified staff should come to an end…” So, is gassing being stopped (under ordinary circumstances) or not? This makes it sound like what is being stopped is gassing by UNCERTIFIED staff. That’s not the same thing as stopping the gassing altogether.

    • My reading of the letter is that its meaning is far from black and white. Not good.

    • Elisa says:

      That’s how I read it. They may be able to find a loophole. People think just because it’s banned the chamber will go away. I don’t know whether it will even be packed up and put into storage.

      As for the humane euthanasia by carbon, that gas itself may be considered HUMANE by some, but the dogs often get into bloody fights when thrown terrified into closed quarters. I imagine cats would be the same. Usually a diver who is euphoric from drowning doesn’t have 20 other bodies climbing over him as he dies like the dogs and cats do.

  4. Susan says:

    Greg, IN THEORY the gas chamber may be more humane but the way it is used here, it is not. There are horrific reports of animals being crammed into the machine far beyond its capacity and the animals don’t die, among other things. But the worst was when, for their amusement, the animal control officer put a mother cat and kitten in the chamber with a raccoon to watch them fight while they died. This was witnessed and reported by a visiting repairman who was sickened by what he saw. There is NO humane way to kill animals as long as the “shelters” here hire sadists who enjoy hurting the animals. And they do, and they do.

    • I agree Susan. Greg does not have all the facts at his disposal. I recall a shelter worker who was horrified at what she saw. The deaths were very unpleasant. The link Greg provides is to the killing of prisoners. That is not a sensible comparison.

      I have banned him because he is Woody in disguise or another one of those nasty cat haters.

  5. greg farrins says:

    You might want to educate yourself with a study done in your own country.

    Those “gas chambers” that all of you are so up-in-arms about, are actually the most humane method of euthanasia of any method ever found. Any animal with a higher-functioning nervous-system that dies by “hypoxia” (loss of oxygen), dies in a complete state of euphoria. The very same source of the phrase “Rapture of the Deep” for divers that run out of oxygen. They don’t even know they are facing death.

    What a shame that even more animals are going to die even more inhumanely now due to your own self-inflicted ignorance. Tighten those blinders a little more, that’ll help.

    BBC – Horizon – “The Science of Killing” –

  6. Susan says:

    1. Because it’s North Carolina
    2. Because it is political. One of the primary consultants to the State Dept of Agriculture (which controls shelters) is Ralph Houser. Google him.
    3. True but “should” and “should not” is irrelevant since “did”
    4. AVMA = also political

  7. On the positive side this is good news. On the negative side:

    — why has it taken so long?
    — why is there a get out clause (or that is what it looks like)?
    — gassing should never really have happened in the first place.
    — The AVMA approved C02 gassing until 2013.

    The AVMA have a lot of explaining to do.

    Do we know how prevalent gassing of pets is in the USA in 2014?

    I had the impression it was rare these days.

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