It was recently discovered that the animal shelter in White Pine county that is operated by the City of Ely is still using the gas chamber for euthanasia of animals.
Each year animal shelters in the United States handle about 6 to 8 million animals. Of those, about 4 million animals are euthanized.
And the method of euthanasia varies by state-to state, two methods are the most common. The first is euthanasia by injection (EBI), which most frequently uses sodium pentobarbital. The second, and much more controversial method is euthanasia by carbon monoxide, better known as the gas chamber.
Each county in Nevada that has an animal control facility was contacted and it was confirmed that White Pine is the only county still using the gas chamber.
Some counties that did not have facilities would transfer an animal onto another county that would assist them with an adoption, or euthanasia if that was their last resort.
Eureka County reported that they have only had to euthanize about three to four animals in the last five years, and that was under court orders.
While it is not illegal it still seems like a very inhumane way to put down an animal. Many people think that the animal quietly goes to sleep and then dies, but the reality is it’s a horrific and cruel method of euthanasia.
Gas chambers cannot provide humane euthanasia for shelter populations. Often the animals euthanized in shelters are old, young, ill or injured and none of these animals can be humanely euthanized in a gas chamber.
Old, ill, or injured animals may suffer from medical conidtions that delay the effects of gas, causing them to experience distress prior to unconsciousness, making the use of inhalants like carbon monoxide ineffective. Depending on the animal, it could take up to 25 minutes before the animal is no longer alive.
With the EBI injection, it quickly stops the heart ending an animals life in several seconds and usually not more than 30 seconds.
The facility here in Ely only has the ability to hold 10 dogs and about 6-8 felines. Overcrowding rarely happens but when it does, a tough decision has to be made.
The shelter used to be able to coordinate with an animal shelter in Reno to take in animals that they were unable to adopt out here locally. There has not been any contact with that shelter in about a year.
Reports received from the city indicated that from January to present, 20 dogs have been euthanized, with seven during August. Forty three cats were euthanized and 15 of them were in May.
When several locals where asked if they were aware that the gas chamber was being used for euthanasia of animals, they had no idea. City Attorney Chuck Odgers was contacted since he oversees the employee at the animal shelter. He was unaware that an animal control officer could become certified as a euthanasia technician, so they could administer the EBI injection.
The course is about 16 hours and is administered by by the Veterinary Board, and the cost is $200. An according to the Humane Society, where direct licensing is not yet available, the HSUS will partner with the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association (HSVMA) in an effort to help shelters secure access to euthanasia drugs until a direct licensing measure is passed.
The HSUS stands ready to provide necessary training, financial support and other assitance to any shelter committed to converting from use of a gas chamber euthanasia to EBI.
The Nevada Humane Society in Reno was contacted by phone and via email and we are still awaiting a return call. Several research methods produced news articles that the Humane Society thought that the animal control facility in Elko was the last facility that contained a gas chamber that the Humane Society paid to have disassembled.
What goes along with this touchy subject of euthanasia? The lack of enforcement of spay and neuter laws, licensing of animals so animal control can keep a record of how many animals are in White Pine, and last but not least backyard breeding. Odgers said about 120 of the 400 animals in White Pine are not licensed.
Ten dollars a year, which is much better than the failure to license penalty which is $125. And how can all this be enforced when there is only one animal control officer in the entire county, that is funded by the city and county to cover a variation of animal control issues with wild animals, and farm animals, it doesn’t just stop at cats and dogs.
Next time you think about dumping your animal off at the animal shelter, remember that this really does become a life or death decision.