North Carolina debates shelter euthanasia law

If it passes, a bill before the North Carolina State Legislature would ban the use of carbon monoxide gas chambers as a way of euthanizing shelter animals.

House Bill 6 proposes a ban on the use of CO gas chambers, which are used in more than 30 counties in the state, according to local media. The new law would require shelter euthanasias to be performed by only licensed veterinarians or certified euthanasia technicians using intravenous, intraperitoneal, or oral administration of sodium pentobarbital or its approved equivalent.

It also adds the provision: “No animal shelter may maintain on its premises any facility or equipment used for the euthanasia of animals with carbon monoxide or any other gas.”

But the North Carolina Veterinary Medical Association (NCVMA) opposes the bill, which goes before the House Agriculture Committee this week. The NCVMA says in a position statement that they support IV euthanasia as the preferred method in shelters where there is adequate staff skill level, supervision and resources. The statement also says the NCVMA supports CO gas euthanasia as a humane method in certain situations, “when delivered in properly maintained and supervised carbon monoxide chambers.

“The NCVMA believes that a requirement for EBI exclusively in ALL animal shelters in North Carolina will result in needless animal suffering, inconsistent compliance, increased safety hazards for shelter personnel, and increased taxpayer expense,” the statement says.

NCVMA President Jane Williston, DVM, said many shelters in the state do not have the resources to humanely euthanize animals by injection. Some shelters that use the gas chambers are little more than a chain link fence to hold the animals. Banning CO chambers outright could lead shelter personnel to kill animals by shooting them or using other inhumane methods, she said.

“What were saying is, in those shelters that currently have carbon monoxide chambers, if they don’t have the manpower or resources to euthanize the animals with intravenous injection, give them a tool that they already have in place to safely and humanely euthanize that feral cat, that vicious pit bull, that rabid skunk,” Williston said. “Give them the means to do that unfortunate task that has to be done.”

Williston said NCVMA staff members have received threatening phone calls from some of the bill’s proponents, but the NCVMA will maintain its opposition to the bill.

“To keep silent, to do nothing is unconscionable,” she said.

NEWStat Legislation & regulation