Resolution Encouraging State Bans on Gas Chamber Euthanasia in Shelters
H. Res. 208, introduced by Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA), expresses Congress’s opposition to the use of gas chambers for euthanizing shelter animals and encourages those states that have not already done so to require euthanasia by injection (EBI). EBI is far more humane for the animals, safer for shelter personnel, and less costly.
House of Representatives
Shelters are supposed to be places that provide a haven for unwanted animals and a humane death when homes cannot be found for them. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. Some states still allow shelters to use gas chambers, and these can hardly be called humane.
Gas Chambers Are Inhumane
Gas chambers do not guarantee a quick, painless death. Often the animals involved are compromised in some way—very young, old, ill, or injured—that delays the effects of the gas, or due to their size or species, are resistant to hypoxia. In some cases, it can take more than 30 minutes for death to occur. Multiple animals are often placed in the chamber, which frightens and distresses them, as do the sights, sounds, and smells. Sometimes not all the animals die at once. Although industry standards mandate EBI for animals younger than four months or those with respiratory ailments, many shelters use gas chambers for 100 percent of their euthanasia.
Gas Chambers Are Unsafe for Shelter Personnel
Gas chambers present health and safety risks to humans as well; carbon monoxide can leak, gas can accumulate and cause explosions; such accidents have caused injury and death to shelter personnel. Shelter workers also report higher levels of psychological stress from having to use gas chambers to euthanize animals versus using EBI.
Gas Chambers Are More Expensive than EBI
In addition to all the humane and safety flaws, the units are also expensive and difficult to maintain properly. When all expenses are taken into account, gas chambers cost approximately $5.00 per animal, whereas EBI costs approximately $2.30 per animal.1
Opposition to Gas Chamber Use
The Animal Welfare Institute and over 300 national and local animal protection organizations endorse H. Res. 208. The Association of Shelter Veterinarians’ (ASV) Guidelines for Standards of Care in Animal Shelters lays out a stark case against using gas chambers for euthanizing animals, calling them “unacceptable … due to multiple humane, operational, and safety concerns.” This method does not meet the ASV’s requirement that the method of euthanasia be “quick, painless, and should not cause distress.” With multiple animals in the chamber, the gas concentration is reduced, “creating a haphazard euthanasia experience that can be prolonged, painful, and ineffective.” Similarly, the National Animal Control Association (NACA) “condemns the use of carbon monoxide [and other gases] … for animal shelter euthanasia of dogs and cats.”
Usage Varies by State
Gas chamber euthanasia is banned outright in 21 states; another 15 do not ban it but do give shelters authority to acquire euthanasia drugs (called “direct licensing”). Unfortunately, some shelters in direct licensing states continue to rely on gas chambers. In the remaining states, shelters do not have authority to acquire and use euthanasia drugs directly, but rather must go through a local veterinarian.
Shelter Animals Deserve Better
H. Res. 208 is needed to call attention to the cruelty of gas chambers for euthanasia, to encourage the use of EBI as the only acceptable method, and to persuade the remaining 29 states that have not done so to ban gas chambers and require shelters to acquire euthanasia drugs directly, with appropriate training and certification.
1 Based on an analysis commissioned by the American Humane Association.