Animals dying in gas chambers – it doesn’t conjure a pleasant image but it happens at shelters every day,
When the inevitable time occurs, owned pets are euthanized by injection. Animal euthanasia comes from the Greek, literally meaning a good death without fear, stress or pain.
“Death by gas (really carbon monoxide is used) is a death horrible enough to be banned (in most states) for criminals,” says activist and dog trainer Joseph Dwyer of Nutley, NJ. “These shelter animals are not criminals – their only crime is that they can’t find a home.”
According to Dwyer’s count, 30 states still allow for killing in carbon monoxide chambers. ”It’s unnecessary, heartless,” he says.
Dwyer became involved when he learned about a Beagle named Daniel. The little dog made national news back last fall when he and 17 other dogs were placed together in a carbon monoxide chamber in Florence, AL. Sixteen dogs died that day. When a shelter worker opened the chamber door, a wagging tail was on the other side. The amazed shelter worker thought the pup would still die overnight, but the dog refused to succumb.
The shelter didn’t have the heart to put down the plucky dog, who made national news for his resilience.
Dwyer heard about the dog, and adopted him through a non-profit called Eleventh Hour Rescue. Dwyer not only adopted Daniel – named for the Biblical figure who survived the lion’s den – he adopted a personal mission to advocate for euthanasia by injection, and end carbon monoxide killings forever.
When Pennsylvania State Senator Andy Dinniman (D) heard about the hardy Beagle, he learned his state was among those, “still in the dark ages,” as he says. “I feel our great state must do better.”
Indeed, they’re about to do just that. In March a Pennsylvania bill to end carbon monoxide killing of animals should sail through the state Senate Appropriations Committee, and then onto the full Senate for what one Dinniman hopes and expects to be a bipartisan vote of approval.
Dinniman noted that public response to the proposal has been overwhelmingly in favor. “In my district (the 19th Senatorial district), 400 people showed up at a rally with their dogs,” he says.
“I’m not sure what the opposition could possibly say,” adds Dwyer. “I’m convinced that most people don’t realize gas chambers exist – and likely in the state they live in.”
Some contend euthanasia by injection – one animal at a time – will be more costly. It turns out that isn’t true, according to a 2009 study by the American Humane Association. In fact, euthanasia by injection can potentially be less expensive
Perhaps, the carbon monoxide chambers are so rarely reported on because it is, after all, hard to stomach. Despite guidelines which suggest otherwise, for the sake of expediency, the animals put to death in these chambers are often rounded up. So, big dogs are crammed together with small dogs, and cats are put to death with dogs – it doesn’t matter. Temperatures in these chambers may reach over 100 degrees. Technicians report hearing animals scream.
“That’s right, it’s inhumane,” says Dwyer. “But also don’t all animals deserve to die with some dignity?” As pet owners are aware euthanasia by injection, allows for respect for individual lives; many pet owners use words such as “beautiful,” “spiritual” and “peaceful.”
Dwyer – is working to support Dinniman efforts in Pennsylvania, and hopes that the state’s high profile passage of a bill banning euthanasia by carbon monoxide will spread to other states. And Dinniman is hoping for the same. “The way which we treat our animals reflects the way which we treat ourselves.”
©Steve Dale, Tribune Media Services