Gas chamber defenders have a predictable set of defenses they trot out whenever their right to gas pets is challenged. Let's take a look at them.
1. The AVMA says it's okay.
While the American Veterinary Medical Association continues to stand on the wrong side of history on this one, the fact is, if you actually look at what the AVMA says in its supposed "defense" of the gas chamber, you'll find that they've put so many qualifications on that seal of approval virtually no shelter could possibly comply with their guidelines for its use – certainly not the backwards, poorly-performing shelters most likely to be clinging to the gas chamber:
In previous editions of the guidelines, the use of carbon monoxide (CO) or carbon dioxide (CO2) gas was considered ‘acceptable’ for euthanasia of dogs and cats. In the 2013 Guidelines, the classification for use of these gases has been changed to ‘acceptable with conditions’…. The use of these techniques requires that specific conditions be met to ensure that death is achieved in a humane way. When ALL of the conditions are met, ‘acceptable with conditions’ methods are equivalent to ‘acceptable’ methods. And, if all conditions are not met, they are not considered ‘acceptable.’
Some of those conditions include:
- High standards of training for those operating the gas chamber
- Gas chamber must be located in a well-ventilated place, preferably outdoors
- Careful adherence to proper technique, flow, and concentration of gas during use, as well as use of a high-quality product
- High-quality construction of gas chambers
- Animals should be gassed individually
- Chambers should be cleaned between each use to prevent causing distress to animals killed afterward
- Chambers should be well-lit and easily observed
The AVMA statement concludes, "Gas chambers are not recommended for routine euthanasia of cats and dogs in shelters and animal control operations."
So if a shelter truly wants to live and die by the AVMA's blessing on the gas chamber, they'd better be prepared to meet all the standards for its use. They might also want to take a look at the raging debate about this on the AVMA website, where you'll find that the organization itself knows its position is not popular with its member veterinarians, who haven't been shy about letting them know.
2. We can't afford to kill animals individually.
Guess what? Killing pets by injection is actually less expensive than gassing them to death. Even if there are some costs associated with making the transition, the gas chamber is so unpopular with average Americans that raising those funds should be a snap for any organization with enough operational savvy to hold a bake sale or make a Facebook post. (Fakkema D. Euthanasia By Injection Training Guide, American Humane 2009)
3. Killing animals individually is too hard on our staff.
If you want to make the job easier on your staff, don't rely on the gas chamber. The Association of Shelter Veterinarians has this to say:
Use of carbon monoxide cannot be justified as a means to… distance staff emotionally and physically from the euthanasia process. Studies have shown that carbon monoxide…. has not been shown to provide emotional benefits for staff. Some shelter workers have reported being distressed by hearing animals vocalizing, scratching and howling in the chamber, and by having to repeat the process when animals survived the first procedure
Additionally, exposure to carbon monoxide is dangerous to human shelter staff; at least one shelter worker was killed on the job by the odorless, tasteless gas. (Gilbert, Kathy; "Humane Society Cited in Death of Employee." The Times & Free Press, Chattanooga, TN, July 25, 2000)
There are reasons the AVMA has put so many conditions on its oft-cited "approval" of gas chambers in shelters, and why the Association of Shelter Veterinarians is unequivocal in its opposition to the practice.
And there are no reasons at all to keep doing it.