Local News

N.C. Debates Humane Way to Euthanize Animals

Posted July 18, 2007 8:46 p.m. EDT
Updated July 18, 2007 10:13 p.m. EDT

— Animal rights advocates argued Wednesday that North Carolina's continued use of gas chambers to euthanize animals is barbaric.

At a public hearing Wednesday, advocates urged the state to adopt what they call more humane methods.

The N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is considering new regulations on the use of carbon-monoxide gas chambers.

The regulations would give North Carolina its first set of uniform standards for euthanizing animals, said Dr. Lee Hunter, director of the department's animal-welfare section.

Hunter advocated adopting the rules "to make sure that the workers that have to do it are trained, to make sure the animals are euthanized by a method that is recognized as humane."

Some animal-rights advocates argued that the regulations don't go far enough and should ban gas chambers entirely.

Opponents of the measure carried a colorful chain with a link for every animal euthanized each year in North Carolina.

Animals suffer while being killed in gas chambers, said Jennifer McCollum, a volunteer with the Triad Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

"They urinate, they defecate, they vomit, they convulse. They fight each other in their panic. It's not humane," McCollum said.

Although lethal injection is becoming more widely used across the state, the Wake County Animal Shelter is among 30 shelters that also use gas chambers.

Michael Williams, director of the Wake shelter, said that its gas chamber is used rarely and is used humanely.

"The animals are separated. They're sedated before they go into the chamber. ...  We're using a cool, compressed gas," Williams said.

The agriculture department is expected make its decision on the regulations in September.

Fifteen states, including North Carolina, have laws that allow gas chambers.

Around 85 percent of animals taken to shelters in North Carolina are euthanized, amounting to 250,000 animals annually.

Nationally, around half of animals in shelters are put down and half adopted.