By Steve Dale
euthanasia comes from the Greek, literally meaning a good death without fear,
stress or pain.
2011, this translates to what we can do for animals, and how veterinarians in private practice
are able to end lives peacefully, called euthanasia by injection.
animal shelters also practice euthanasia by injection, but a surprising number
do not. They still use antiquated gas chambers.
There was a time in our
own history when people on death row were executed using gas. This method was
discontinued because it was simply considered too inhumane. People suffered a
great deal before they died.
Often times animals are
rounded up, big dogs with small dogs, cats with dogs, aggressive dogs with old
or sick dogs and the gas is turned on, carbon monoxide or carbon dioxide. Once the button is pushed, the
technician high-tails it away from there. Technicians have told me they sometimes
can hear screaming as they go.
I suspect the primary
reason you don't read about this is just because it is so distasteful. Animal
shelter consultant and euthanasia expert Doug Fakkema has witnessed countless
shelter animals killed via carbon monoxide or carbon dioxide. "Animals struggle to desperately hold
on to life, some panic," he says.
"When there are other animals present - as there often are - it's not
unusual for attacks to break out. "
For anyone who euthanizes
a pet, every private practicing veterinarian in America and Canada uses a
technique called euthanasia by injection. This is vastly different death than
what those shelter animals in gas chambers experience.
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Euthanasia by injection
is quite peaceful, some even describe it as beautiful. There is n suffering,
this is an especially humane choice for pets with terminal diseases or those
that are so elderly that their quality of life is poor and will not
A sedative is often given
first to literally put the animal to sleep. That's followed by an injection of
Pentobarbital, which places the animal under anesthesia in a matter of seconds.
At this point the animal has lost all sensation, so the animal can no longer
see, hear, smell, or feel. Within 20 seconds the animal lapses into a coma, and
vital organs begin to shut down. Performed by a skilled technician, the entire
process takes less then a minute. Unlike use of gasses, the animal quickly
loses consciousness, and most of all, there's a pain free and dignified death.
Indeed most animals in
shelters have done nothing wrong. Don't they deserve a dignified death?
Of course, they do. Even
shelters using gas chambers say that animals deserve a dignified death. So,
what's the problem?
Actually, even Fakkema,
arguably the world's most noted expert on the topic, isn't sure. Some facilities are stuck in time, he
explains sticking to the notion that the use of gas, "it's the way we've always
done it." Other shelters say they don't have funds to pay for euthanasia by
The truth is that
according to a 2009 study by the American Humane Association, both euthanasia
by injection and the gassing of animals cost about the same. In fact,
euthanasia by injection may be less expensive.
It's true, personnel
require training for euthanasia by injection (in some states re certification
is required for this procedure). However, once trained, the technique is
actually safer when compared to often untrained volunteers and workers who
sometimes "fight" struggling animals to force them into gas chambers.
Euthanasia by injection is also easier on the psyche of staff.
Fakkema has been in the
animal welfare world for 40 years. "If it was up to me, carbon monoxide and
carbon dioxide (gas chambers) would be declared illegal everywhere," he says.
In fact, gas chambers
remain legal in many places including, Michigan, North Carolina and Texas.
National animal welfare
organizations also strongly support euthanasia by injection, including the
American Humane Association - which has long been out in front of this issue.
Fakkema, says you can make a difference by insuring that euthanasia by
injection is being implemented in your community. Visit tour local shelter to
ask what technique is used to perform euthanasia is used.
Insuring euthanasia by
injection is being implemented in your community.
It's a shame too many
pets are still dying in animal shelters - the least we can do is to provide
them with a peaceful ending to what has sometimes been a tumultuous life.
©Steve Dale, Tribune Media Service