Sunday, February 28, 2010

Utah Legislation: Gas Chambers for Animals

In its original form, HB 185 would have required all shelters in Utah to euthanize animals via lethal injection, with some exceptions. But testimony heard at the committee hearing changed that. Now the bill states that shelters may use carbon monoxide, with some stipulations.

Some of my comments...
according to those who testified at Friday's hearing, the procedure is both humane and endorsed by the American Veterinary Medical Association.
The AVMA considers carbon dioxide gassing acceptable for zoo animals, swine, rodents, rabbits, fur-bearing mammals, fish, dogs, cats, birds and amphibians. Carbon dioxide gassing always causes stress and aversive behaviors. Even according to vivisectionists who use it to kill research animals, there is no "ideal" way to kill an animal with carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is a known aversive gas that stimulates the respiratory pathways, irritates ocular and nasal mucous linings and can cause profound suffering. Yet it is an approved AVMA method for killing almost all considered species.

It is also conditionally acceptable to decapitate rabbits, decapitate poultry, macerate chicks and poults and anally electrocute fur-bearing mammals.

On the flip side, argon, is considered only conditionally acceptable in some cases, even though it most likely cause less distress than carbon dioxide (which is generally always acceptable). When used in conjunction with CO2, argon and nitrogen gases can actually reduce the pre-anesthetic discomfort and aversive behaviors.

End point: The AVMA may not necessarily be providing us with the most humane methods of euthanization and may be considering more humane methods, like argon, as "conditionally acceptable".
Other animal control professionals told the committee that outlawing carbon monoxide for pet euthanasia would be too expensive and would cause more "compassion fatigue" for personnel.
Question: Do you know of any study documenting gas chambers increase compassion fatigue in animal shelter personnel more so than injection?

I ask, because I do not. Killing healthy, adoptable animals induces compassion fatigue, no matter what method you use. Killing animals, in general, increases compassion fatigue. But should we be using how humans feel as a barometer for what is most humane for the nonhuman being killed? I do not think so. If the most humane method of killing an animal is more gruesome for the human doing the killing, then measures should be taken to provide proper counseling and therapy to the human. Granted, I do not believe the most humane methods of killing nonhumans are generally gruesome.

Now, I do not necessarily think carbon monoxide, argon, or nitrogen gas chambers are less humane than injecting euthanasia solution. I think, when in good operating order and when one animal is killed at a time, they can be as humane as euthanasia solution. I also think an alternative would be inhalant anesthetics, which are arguably more humane than gas chambers.

If, all things being equal (i.e. the suffering of the animal is the same), it is true that using a CO gas chamber reduced compassion fatigue, sure, it should be standard operating procedure. But I do not believe this is the case.

Like I said above, I think killing animals increases compassion fatigue, regardless of how the animals are killed. 

*Carbon dioxide eventually induces hypoxia and anoxia (no oxygen), but it's effects tend to be different than the other gases mentioned.

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