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NC Animal Shelters To Close Remaining Euthanasia Gas Chambers

dog and cat
Claudio Matsuoka

About half of the U.S. states now ban the use of gas chambers to perform euthanasia on dogs and cats.  North Carolina will enforce such a ban beginning next month, although most counties have already switched to lethal injections.  Union County was one of the last holdouts.

Animal shelters across North Carolina got a letter this month from the state’s Veterinary Division, stating that the use of gas chambers for euthanasia will be prohibited as of February 15.  North Carolina’s animal welfare director, Patricia Norris, says the letter simply clarifies existing policy.  

"Nobody wants to have to euthanize an animal," said Norris.  "When we do it, we want to make sure it is as humane as we can make it."

In Union County, the sheriff’s department runs an animal shelter that used a carbon monoxide chamber for some euthanasia procedures, until last week.  Sheriff Ed Cathey says the shelter has now gone to a 100 percent lethal injection policy. Cathey disagrees that lethal injections are more humane, but he says the public perception of the gas chamber is that it is inhumane. "We realized the movement in the state and the things going on in the communities - they wanted us to move away from the gas chamber."

Meanwhile, the Wilkes County animal shelter is among a handful of other North Carolina shelters where gas chamber euthanasia has still be recently carried out. Wilkes County attorney Tony Triplett says the facility will comply with the state’s directive by February 15.  

The animal welfare office says registered shelters across North Carolina took in about 284,000 dogs and cats in 2013. About 159,000 those animals were euthanized.