- Cullman, Alabama

February 23, 2011

Alabama voters for responsible animal legislation seeks to stop gas chambers

The Cullman Times

CULLMAN — During the upcoming Alabama legislative session beginning on March 1st, the Alabama Voters for Responsible Animal Legislation (AVRAL) and other pet and animal lovers all across the state will seek to have Alabama legislators pass an anti-gassing bill to end the “cruel” and “barbaric” method of euthanatizing unwanted pets in Alabama animal shelters by carbon monoxide gas chambers which slowly and painfully suffocate the life out of the animals. The legislation is being sponsored by Senator Del Marsh,(President Pro-Tem), Cam Ward, Jabo Waggoner, and Gerald Dial as well as Representatives Steve McMillan, Mike Hill, Owen Drake, Becky Nordgren, Jim Patterson, Allen Treadaway, K.L. Brown, Jack Williams, Elwin Thomas, and Mac McCutcheon. The group has been actively and successfully recruiting additional co-sponsors.

The American Veterinary Medical Association has stated that although its use is an approved method of euthanasia, it also states it is not the preferred method due to the fact that the use may produce painful pulmonary and upper respiratory tract lesions prior to loss of consciousness. Even if used correctly, may take longer than euthanasia by other means. Animals may experience distress vocalization (this includes barking, crying, howling and screeching), struggling, frantic attempts to escape, defensive or redirected aggression, salivation, urination, defecation, evacuation of anal sacs, tachycardia, sweating, and reflex skeletal muscle contractions such as shivering, tremors, or other muscular spasms. How humane does THAT sound? AVRAL is opposed to the use of the gas chamber because of the cruel and barbaric way the animal dies. It takes from 30 to 40 minutes for an animal to die, depending on its size. Animals are loaded in “bulk” into a gas chamber often with as many animals that will fit into the chamber, the animal slowly suffocates, even though some have not died and had to be subjected to the gas chamber once again to face the torture yet another time. For those that want to know the truth about how the gas chamber works, a quick search of YOU TUBE will yield haunting images of the horror of these death chambers as the animals scream, cry and gasp for air. 

According to statistics, 120,000 homeless pets are euthanized in Alabama shelters each year. Alabama is among the states where euthanizing abandoned pets in public facilities by gas chambers is legal, and still practiced in Alabama Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners registered facilities funded by taxpayer dollars in Cullman, Tuscumbia, and Florence. 

Those who defend the use of gas chambers maintain that they are cheaper than Euthanasia by Injection (EBI) to operate for animal control. However, recent studies by the American Humane Association comparing the cost of EBI versus the cost to use the gas chamber indicate that EBI is actually cheaper. The study shows that humane injections cost $2.29 per animal while the use of the gas is $4.95 per animal. Also, gas chambers are more dangerous for workers than EBI. One gas chamber in Macon, Georgia exploded last year and injured shelter staff while another 10-year shelter veteran worker in Tennessee was overtaken by the colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas and was found dead at the scene by other shelter staff.

While directors of some facilities maintain that gas chamber chambers are easier because it is less” hands on” than the practice of holding an animal and giving a lethal injection, recent research indicates that most shelter workers are not in favor of gas chambers. They overwhelmingly prefer EBI over gas chambers because EBI gives them the opportunity to hold and comfort a frightened animal in its final moments of life. Let that sink in for a moment, ”hold and comfort.” In many cases, that may be the only kindness the poor animal has ever known. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association and the National Animal Control Association, EBI is a far more humane way for an animal to die than gas chambers.

As the upcoming legislative session begins on March 1, AVRAL and other like-minded groups and pet lovers across all of Alabama encourages voters across the state to contact their legislators and to encourage them to support this bill to end the barbaric practice inflicted upon these poor, innocent, helpless animals, who by no fault of their own, find themselves homeless and facing death in the current animal control system.

The Bible says in Proverbs 12:10, “A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast…” It’s time for all of us, including our legislators, many of whom are ministers, to step up to the plate and take regard (and care) for the lives of our abandoned pets in Alabama.

* Marsha Bradford is a resident of Cullman County.