We are methodically moving forward, facility by facility and state by state, in our quest to ensure that no pet ever faces death inside a carbon monoxide or carbon dioxide gas chamber. On January 26th, the City of Elko, Nevada, decommissioned its carbon monoxide gas chamber – believed to be the last in the state – with a grant from The HSUS. And yesterday, in Utah, a bill to ban gas chamber use for animal euthanasia passed the house committee by a commanding vote of 8 to 1.
This is a particularly welcome development in Utah where seven of the state’s 57 shelters still kill animals using this archaic and ugly method. The bill would phase out gas chamber use for companion animals by July 1, 2017, and for all other animals by July 1, 2018. We are striving for the day when no healthy and treatable animals are euthanized, but until that day comes, we must make sure death is as humane as possible, and injection is a far superior choice than gassing is.
Since The HSUS began its campaign to end the use of gas chambers to euthanize dogs and cats in shelters across the United States in 2013, under the leadership of staff member Inga Fricke, at least 69 chambers have closed – more than two-thirds of the chambers in existence at the time. There are currently only seven states with chambers operational, to the best of our knowledge, down from 16 in 2013.
Efforts are now underway to codify bans on gas chambers in Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, and South Carolina. Government leaders in Kansas have proposed regulation changes that would prohibit the use of carbon monoxide gas chambers in the state. This regulation, while not as declarative as we’d like it to be, would nonetheless force the closure of the two chambers known to be still operational in the state.
In Michigan, there were no chambers in operation at the end of 2015, thanks to the hard work of committed activists, but Branch County in the state threatened to reinstitute chamber use when its shelter, damaged by fire months earlier, reopened. Thankfully, political officials bowed to public outrage and voted on January 12th to permanently ban chamber use in the county.
The Nevada chamber has now been sent to the National Museum of Animals & Society in Los Angeles where it will go on display, a reminder of an era best relegated to history. But it will also, as museum executive director and founder Carolyn Merino Mullin puts it, “serve as a celebration of the steps being taken to make our society more humane for animals each and every day.”