Sunday, January 17, 2010

Humane Euthanasia in Shelter Situations

I came across this article which outlines a controversy regarding a shelter in Garland, TX. The shelter uses a gas chamber which uses carbon monoxide to euthanize its surplus and unadoptable animals. The article includes a description of the procedure as witnessed by the reporters. This procedure is currently considered a humane method of euthanasia in the US.

Euthanasia is one of those realities about the animal population problem that many people want to forget or ignore. The plain truth of the matter is that there are too many domesticated dogs, cats and other animals out there who do not have a home. Dogs and cats that roam the streets create a variety of problems, ranging from effects on wildlife to threats to public health and the health of our homed pets due to bites and disease transmission. And I would encourage you to not take the statements from "no kill" shelters at face value. Many of these groups, while well-meaning, publicly defame "kill" shelters as being inhumane and barbaric in an effort to increase their own funding. The truth of the matter is, where there is a "no kill" shelter, there is a conventional shelter nearby that euthanizes animals. No facility in any community is ever large enough or well-funded enough to shelter all of the unwanted pets in their area, particularly since a large number of those pets are not suitable for living in most homes due to behavioral issues.

The controversy comes from the use of such a technique to euthanize animals. Most of us are more familiar with the idea of an intravenous injection of (essentially) an overdose of an anesthetic that is commonly used for this procedure.

From the shelter's perspective, the use of carbon monoxide as opposed to the injection has clear advantages. The euthanasia solution is a controlled substance, requiring special permits to possess and use. The shelter workers that do the injections need special training. From my own personal experience with the procedure, it can be difficult to find usable veins in some animals. And it can be next to impossible to humanely inject the solution intravenously into an aggressive or frightened animal, which many of these dogs and cats obviously are. The carbon monoxide method allows shelters to euthanize in a humane manner without putting personnel at risk for injury and helps minimize the fear and anxiety of the animal. This would be especially useful for feral cats which are always a large number of the adoptable animals in any community and can be next to impossible to catch let alone safely restrain.

I encourage everyone, even if you are not in the market for a new pet, to visit your local shelter. It is a good reminder of our responsibilities as pet owners and members of the community. Many of the animals there are very nice, and don't deserve to be in that situation. They are there because of people irresponsibly breeding (or simply not spaying or neutering their pets) their own animals, and not seeking behavioral counseling when needed. Contribute to your local shelter in whatever way you can, be it in time, money or supplies. And whenever there are controversies risen about something involving how things are done, make sure you have all of the information before making your decision.

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