Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Letter to MI Senator Hune Regarding The Use of Gas Chambers in MI Shelters

Note: The information for this letter was found in an American Humane Association Fact Sheet. Parts of this letter have been borrowed directly from that document. There are many reasons to oppose gas chambers as a method of euthanasia. When speaking to legislators, I find the most effective approaches to addressing any animal welfare issue speak to public safety, economic reasons and cost-benefit analysis, and humane recommendations or position statements of reputable organizations that are recognized as leaders in the health and humane treatment of animals.

Dear Senator Hune,

My name is Melissa Szumlinski. I am a resident of Walled Lake, Michigan and I am writing you to please hold a hearing for SB 423/424. This bill addresses prohibiting the use of gas chambers in Michigan animal shelters. This bill would benefit the safety of humans operating the gas chamber, minimize cost to the community, and adopt the general standards of humane care recognized by national veterinary and sheltering organizations by using Euthanasia By Injection (EBI) protocols.

The American Veterinary Medical Association states, “Carbon Monoxide is extremely hazardous for personnel because it is highly toxic and difficult to detect.” Because carbon monoxide is colorless, tasteless, odorless, and highly explosive, gas chambers must be constantly checked and maintained to ensure no cracks in the structure or failing seals. An explosion in the Iredell County, North Carolina gas chamber in 2008 revealed that contrary to recommendations, the equipment in the vicinity of the chamber was not explosion proof. A shelter worker was injured and personnel had to be evaluated for CO exposure at the cost of the county.

Shelter workers are also placed in danger of bite incidents and other injury when they have to drag an unpredictable animal in to the gas chamber enclosure. Due to the available use of restraint poles, squeeze gates, and syringe poles, it is far safer for shelter workers to sedate an then administer EBI than it is to force an aggressive, frantic, or frightened animal into a gas chamber.

Secondly to human safety is the cost of gas chambers. As more and more Michigan counties experience financial strains, EBI also makes more sense economically. American Humane recently commissioned a study on the costs associated between EBI and gas. The study, which is applicable to other jurisdictions with cost figures similar to other states, shows that the cost to use carbon monoxide gas is $4.98 per animal. The cost to use carbon monoxide poisoning without a tranquilizer is $4.66 per animal. The cost to use EBI, however, was only $2.29 per animal. The savings of $2.39 per animal can save thousands of dollars at each of the shelters that use gas chambers in Michigan.

Gassing animals causes unnecessary suffering and results in an inhumane death. The American Veterinary Medical Association states that carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide is not approved for use on medium to large animals, thus animal shelters must have an EBI backup system. If successful, the gas chamber can take up to 25 minutes to end an animal’s life. However with EBI, death occurs far more quickly. EBI brings about a rapid and painless unconsciousness, followed by a medical death within just a few minutes.

Widely respected and recognized professional veterinary and sheltering organizations have issued position statements to the efficacy and unilateral adoption of EBI as only humane method of euthanasia. These organizations include
The American Veterinary Medical Association
The National Animal Control Association
The American Humane Association
The Humane Society of the United States
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

Only 7 Michigan animal shelters currently euthanize animals by carbon monoxide. The vast majority of shelters have already transitioned to EBI, giving the animals a humane death and shelter workers the permission to end the animals' lives with the dignity and compassion they deserve. Please hold a hearing on this bill to eliminate this unapproved and inhumane practice.

Thank you,

Melissa Szumlinski, CPDT-KA

*** UPDATE 2/3/12: I just received this email:


Thank you for taking the time to contact the Office of Senator Hune with your support of Senate Bills 423 and 424. We appreciate all the information you sent over. This has been given to Senator Hune for his consideration.
If you have any more questions, comments, or concerns please feel free to contact the office by email or by calling toll free 855-Joe-Hune. Again, thank you for taking the time to contact the office.

Sam Champagne
Constituent Aide
Senator Joe Hune

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