In four U.S. states, unwanted shelter animals may spend their last minutes crammed into a gas chamber, slowly asphyxiating in a death that can take half an hour or more.
This practice is almost universally condemned by animal welfare experts. Those experts agree that in the unfortunate event that an animal needs to be euthanized, the only appropriate option is euthanasia by injection, which is fast and minimally traumatic when performed by someone who has received humane euthanasia training.
But in Utah, Missouri, Ohio, and Wyoming, that final kindness is not guaranteed.
28 states have banned the use of gas chambers in animal shelters altogether or instituted moratoriums on their use. In many other states where the practice remains legal, shelters have chosen to move away from this cruel and dangerous method of killing unwanted pets. In states still using gas, animal activists are fighting tooth and claw to get shelters to stop.
We could keep clawing out victories state by state, shelter by shelter, knowing that a change in political climate could mean that shelters start gassing again, despite the overwhelming evidence against it.
Or we could call on Congress to stop this practice forever with a national ban on gas chambers in animal shelters.
This is something Democrats and Republicans should be able to agree on: No companion animal should die gruesomely when there's a more effective, kind, and appropriate method available.
No shelter worker should be endangered by panicked, vicious animals as they struggle to restrain them, nor should shelter workers be forced to kill animals in a traumatic, upsetting way that denies them opportunities to comfort animals sentenced to death just because they were unwanted.
And no shelter should be wasting money on gas chambers, which are more expensive than euthanasia by injection in addition to being inhumane.
Tell Congress: America is a nation of animal lovers that's making tremendous strides on the crisis of homeless cats and dogs. Our euthanasia rate fell from 2.6 million animals in 2011 to 1.5 this year. That's a huge victory, and hopefully that number will continue to fall.
As it does, let's make sure every animal is provided with a humane, dignified death by banning the use of asphyxiant gases to kill shelter animals.
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