Pets are People, Too

pets are people too

Every year in the United States, approximately 733,000 shelter animals are euthanized (approximately 40% dogs and 60% cats).” 

     This is good news. If you can believe it. 

“In fact, 1,867,000 less shelter dogs and cats were euthanized in 2019 than in 2011. This reduction is amazing and due to improved education, the practice of spay/neutering, the transformation of animal shelters into adoption centers, and people becoming more concerned with animal rights and the elimination of animal cruelty.”

I don’t think that’s so good. But it’s better. Though I will say that the pandemic has been good for pets. Let’s pray once we are back to normal (well out of the proverbial woods now that vaccines are on the horizon) people won’t get lazy and self-absorbed and forget the lifetime commitment they made to their pet children and fill up those shelters all over again. 

“Problems with supply and demand during the coronavirus pandemic have led to shortages not only of items such as hand sanitizer and toilet paper, but in many places, also in pets available for adoption.”

For anyone who has ever had to euthanize a fur baby they will tell you it can be one of the most excruciating experiences. I have had to do it twice and I waited too long to do it a third time as I watched with horror while my beloved Collie (named for his breed) had his final seizure on the floor of my house – all I could do was stand there hoping my cat would not walk through the foam spreading across the floor. I had been hospicing Collie for 6 months: his 16 year-old health failing. I waited too long to do the compassionate thing for him because I could not let him go. But, it was not to be. And he died a horrible death with me helplessly watching in despair. I will never forgive myself that day and I will never let it happen again. I’m a dedicated pet Mommy to a now 5 year-old Maltese and a 7 year-old Siamese cat. 

Euthanasia is not to be taken lightly. The idea of not letting my pets die a natural death in their sleep or in my arms is one that I struggled with twice and then a third time. But watching them suffer in old age with incontinence, blindness, seizures and then not knowing when the moment might happen and I might be at work and they will suffer alone or as in Collie’s case when he suddenly had that last seizure one day before I had planned to take him to say goodbye with dignity – it is a moment that will haunt me for the rest of my days. 

But the idea of euthanizing abandoned and unowned cats and dogs because they do not have forever homes is abominable. When I read that some are gassed I had visions of the six million Jews in Germany during the Holocaust. Yes, I know there will be outrage at the statement. How can I compare 6 millions Jews to a dog or a cat. Well fuck anyone who is outraged because I am Jewish going back generations and I know I had DNA die in the camps. 

But my pets are people and family, too, and also God’s creations on Earth – wasn’t Noah instructed to bring 2 of every kind of animal with him onto the ark? So to gas or euthanize unwanted animals because there are too many to care for is lazy and merciless. Efforts must be made to keep all animals alive, unless it would be inhumane for health not to. But gas is unconscionable.

Yet, according to the Animal Humane Society there are currently 27 states with   bans on the use of gas chambers and in loophole places like Coalinga, California in 2015 a small out of the way shelter got around the ban. California banned gas chambers for carbon monoxide not carbon dioxide and so this small remote shelter 45 miles from the nearest vet slipped under the radar with a DIY chamber to the tune of an estimated 600 fur babies who had no other option and this was the “last resort” or only resort for an under budgeted shelter and too many unwanted pets. It should not be on the table as an option. 

   In other research I found these numbers:

   with all available data as of 2016:

 -22 states have banned gas chambers for dogs and cats

 -5 states have chambers in place but no known chambers in use

-19 states have no formal ban but no indication of use

 -4 states have no ban; with use confirmed or suspected

Of course things have gotten better. But there are states and shelters that believe in business as usual: they have always done things one way and that is the only way. Most if they euthanize at all, they do so compassionately, but then there are the ones that are stuck in the past of business as usual. 

“While most shelters around the country practice humane euthanasia by injection of approved drugs, some still use the gas chamber, a method the HSUS and every other major animal welfare group believe belongs in the past. The HSUS is committed to ensuring that inhumane euthanasia methods like gas chambers become a thing of the past.While most shelters around the country practice humane euthanasia by injection of approved drugs, some still use the gas chamber, a method the HSUS and every other major animal welfare group believe belongs in the past. The HSUS is committed to ensuring that inhumane euthanasia methods like gas chambers become a thing of the past. ” 

This is a painful, stressful, and inhumane practice. 

In Ohio, a state that has predominantly wiped out gas chambers there is only one county that still uses them: Erie County.

Only one county animal shelter in Ohio is known to still use gas chambers for the purpose of euthanasia, but Rep. Dave Leland wants to ensure it never becomes widespread.”

Attorney, John Bell, a pro bono attorney working to help end the practice in Ohio says that it can take up to 40 minutes for a dog to die depending on the type of chemical used. 

“It’s animal Auschwitz,” Bell said. “How can we compare it? Because it’s exactly the same method used at the concentration camps in the Second World War.”

In December of 2020 Rock Springs Animal Control removed their gas chamber for good. 

“In the past the gas chamber was a tool to assist Animal Control officers with euthanizing animals, however, with changing times Rock Springs Animal Control has found more humane ways to tackle animal population problems and can do so without the use of carbon monoxide,” the organization said.”

Every effort should be made to find alternative methods to euthanizing any animal. But if there is no alternative a humane approach must be used at all costs. It is not good enough. We have to do better. No dog or cat should ever be gassed or even put to sleep for lack of a loving home unless there are extenuating health circumstances. 

We are better than that. We are not Germany in the 1930s. On a state by state basis we have more people smoking legal weed than we have a ban on gas chambers for pets. We can be a backwards nation. And now once again we have a First Dog in the White House – two first dogs! I do not think Champ and Major Biden would like to know that any furry friends are in danger. Remember pets are people, too. 

Author: Sherri Margolin

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