Gas Chamber Euthanasia Debate Lingers
ILLINOIS – The fight against putting animals down by using gas chambers has a new ally. Illinois now joins several other states that have banned the technique of carbon monoxide animal euthanasia.
The dated method is seen by many as inhumane, and while lethal injection has largely replaced gas chambers, the debate lingers.
According to its definition, euthanasia is supposed to be painless. But when it comes to the use of carbon monoxide, detractors say it’s nothing short of cruel.
Attorney Jordan Matyas drafted the carbon monoxide euthanasia ban bill in Illinois. He's opposed to the method, and sees it as cruel. In the procedure, about five dogs and five cats are put on either side of the chamber, a wire mesh fence separating the animals. Then, the chamber is filled with gas.
“And what I've been told is they go to lunch then because they don't want to hear the (animals) screaming, and it takes about 45 minutes for the animals to pass away,” said Matyas.
Matyas’ bill would ban the procedure. He’s working to get it through the Illinois state legislature. State Representative John Fritchey has backed the measure, as have more than 40 organizations nationwide.
“We're talking about ending an animal's life and their last moments on this earth should not be painful,” said Matyas.
Though it’s not known exactly how many facilities still use gas chambers, the procedure is rare. In Illinois, only two organizations still use it – the rest utilize lethal injection.
“Injection into the vein is the most common method, it's the cheapest method and it's the most humane method,” said Matyas. “Instead of taking 45 minutes like in the gas chamber, the injection takes seconds and it's painless.”
The American Veterinary Medical Association has opposed Matyas’ bill. And according to the group’s latest euthanasia report, carbon monoxide is listed as an acceptable method – although it’s not preferred. Calls to the AVMA concerning this issue were not returned.
If passed, the Illinois ban would go into effect January 2009. To speak up against the use of carbon monoxide euthanasia in your state, contact your local representative.
None of Illinois’ vets use carbon monoxide euthanasia.
“I have not heard from one vet that uses this or supports the use of carbon monoxide euthanasia,” said Matyas.
In most states, the use of inhalants is either still legal or the laws surrounding it are ambiguous. California, Maryland, New Jersey and Virginia have banned the technique – with Illinois trying to follow suit.
“About five years ago, there were many other shelters in
Illinois using it,” said Matyas. “So we just want to make sure that before is has a comeback, before it has a resurgence, that we stop it and ban it.”
Many say that ultimately, they hope to see euthanasia decrease on the whole – but that’s another issue.
“We believe that that is really, truly the heart of the problem,” said Lisa Dawson Chicago’s Pets Are Worth Saving director of communications. “The only way you're going to solve the problem is by spaying and neutering as many animals as possible, that'll bring the rate down of how many animals are being born and thus less that we have to put down.”
Until then, euthanasia lives on, as does the dogged debate over how it’s done.
If passed, the ban would go effect in January 2009.
To speak out against the use of carbon monoxide euthanasia, contact your local state representative.
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5 years ago
THAT IS TERRIBLE. THEY BANNED THAT FOR HUMANS WHY NOT ANIMALS. HOW WOULD THEY LIKE TO DIE LIKE THAT. THAT IS UNREASONABLY STUPID TO DO TO A ANIMAL. MOST OF THE TIME WHEN THEY ARE PUT DOWN ITS BECAUSE THEY ARE SUFFERING SO WHY MAKE THEM SUFFER WORSE JUST PUT THEM TO SLEEP PEACEFULLY.
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