At an animal control facility in Florence, Alabama, where stray, unwanted animals are routinely euthanized, a young beagle named Daniel was sent to die in a gas chamber along with 17 other dogs. Amazingly (perhaps miraculously), Daniel survived the 17-minute ordeal unscathed, and has now found a permanent home with the help of animal rescue groups. His story recently featured on Anderson Cooper’s show, bringing national attention to the fact that, while Daniel’s survival is unique, his situation was not. Between six and eight million animals are brought to animals shelters each year, and with nowhere to go, upwards of four million are euthanized, many by carbon monoxide or carbon dioxide inhalation. 18 states have outlawed some forms of gassing, while only 9 have prohibited euthanasia by gassing altogether.
As documented by The Humane Society, euthanasia by gas inhalation can be unreliable and cause prolonged suffering and great distress. Death is not always quick, as it can take up to 25-30 minutes to end an animal’s life, and loss of consciousness and brain function occurs only after vital organs are shut down. Further, where multiple animals are gassed at the same time, feelings of panic and excitability can cause fights to break out. A far more effective, and painless, method of causing death is euthanasia by injection (EBI), using sodium pentobarbital, which results in clinical death within 2 to 5 minutes, and loss of consciousness within 3 to 5 seconds. Clearly, then, EBI is more humane, and yet it still isn’t legally mandated in most states.
The fact that stray companion animals, like Daniel, are routinely subjected to die by gas inhalation seems surprising, given that for pet owners, the procedure is rarely used. How can this disparity in treatment be explained? Perhaps the disparity is indicative of society’s inconsistent attitude towards stray and adopted animals, viewing the latter as possessing greater inherent value or being more deserving of protection. Hopefully, with Daniel’s story garnering national attention, this attitude will change. If animals are to be euthanized, at the very least, the killing process should be as painless and humane as possible; it should not make a difference whether an animal is stray or not, only that it is capable of suffering.
Filed under: animal advocacy, animal ethics, animal law Tagged: | animal advocacy, animal cruelty, animal ethics, animal euthanasia, animal law, animal shelters, animal suffering, animal welfare, gas chambers