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09/12/2013 05:10 pm ET Updated Sep 13, 2013

Michigan Animal Shelter Gas Chamber Ban Bill Passes State Senate

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A controversial animal shelter practice could soon be illegal in Michigan after the state Senate unanimously approved a bill Thursday banning the use of gas chambers to euthanize pets at animal control shelters.

The practice of gassing animals has spurred strong objections from animal rights activists. Sen. Rick Jones (R-Grand Ledge) introduced Senate Bill 354, which passed 37-0. It will next be up for consideration in the House.

“I wish no dog ever had to be put down, but if it has to happen we must ensure that it is done humanely as possible,” Jones said in a statement. “When I was the Eaton County Sheriff, I ran the local animal shelter. I know that shots are quick, painless and are the most humane way to put down an animal."

In Michigan there are four counties -- Berrien, Branch, Cass and Van Buren -- that operate gas chambers to euthanize pets, according to the Associated Press. Other shelters have the capability to but do not at this time.

Branch County will be discontinuing the practice whether or not the legislation passes, according to WTBV-TV.

In a fact sheet from the American Humane Association, the nonprofit organization listed the reasons euthanizing by injection (EBI) should be used over gas chambers. They claim it is the safest method for humans and much more humane for animals:

  • IF successful, the gas chamber can take up to 25 to 30 minutes to end an animal’s life, whereas EBI causes loss of consciousness within 3 to 5 seconds and clinical death within 2 to 5 minutes. EBI causes animals to lose consciousness and brain function before their vital organs shut down. In a chamber, however, animals lose consciousness and brain function only after their vital organs shut down, causing prolonged suffering and distress.
  • EBI is the method preferred by the National Animal Control Association, the American Veterinary Medical Association, the Association of Shelter Veterinarians, and The Humane Society of the United States.

    ...

  • The animals don’t always die in gas chambers, as documented by the fact that a dog survived the St. Louis, MO Animal Regulation Center’s gas chamber in 2003 and a puppy survived the Davie County, NC Animal Shelter’s gas chamber in 2005.
  • Referring to the horrors of carbon monoxide, Doug Fakkema, the nation’s animal euthanasia expert, has stated: ―[t]he animal is in a warm or hot box, usually with other animals. They don’t know what is going on. The hiss of the gas is going on inside. They get dizzy, and then they panic. Fights can break out, and animals’ calls can sometimes be heard.

More than 20 states still allow the practice, though some have outlawed it in recent years. In May, Texas enacted a ban on gas chambers at animal control shelters.

According to the Humane Society, up to three or four million companion animals are euthanized each year.

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