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Carbon Monoxide Gas Chamber Fact Sheet

From an animal’s vantage point, the process of gas chamber euthanasia can be extremely scary. These animals are placed into a small, dark, hot box, filled with the lingering smells of the animals who came before them—many of whom sweated, urinated, defecated before dying. If placed in the chamber with more than one animal, they may begin fighting out of fear and desperation. The strange sights, sounds, and noises often escalate the panic. For several minutes they may exist in this state of terror, clawing and calling for a way out. They may struggle to for air or begin convulsing before finally losing consciousness. This may be the experience of your beloved family pet if he is placed into a carbon monoxide gas chamber.

Under the best circumstances it takes minutes before an animal loses consciousness inside a gas chamber, during which time she experiences this terror. But if the chamber is not calibrated and maintained perfectly, or if the animal is young, old, ill, injured, or highly stressed, it can take much, much longer. In the worst cases, the animal is still conscious while his vital organs begin to shut down. In some cases, the animal actually lives through this nightmare, only to find herself in the box for a second try.

Fortunately, there is a humane alternative – when animals are injected with proper euthanasia drugs, they can lose consciousness in as little as 3-5 seconds, and they lose all ability to feel stress or pain almost immediately, making the process completely painless and humane. The HSUS, along with ASPCA, NACA, American Humane, the Association of Shelter Veterinarians and all other national animal welfare organizations, condemns the use of carbon monoxide (CO) gas chambers for euthanasia of animals in shelters. When animals must be euthanized in a shelter setting, the only acceptable method is euthanasia by injection performed by a properly trained technician.

CO chambers cannot provide humane euthanasia for shelter populations: Often the animals euthanized in shelters are old, young, ill or injured; none of these animals can be humanely euthanized in a gas chamber. Even healthy adult dogs and cats will suffer stressed just by being placed in the dark, unfamiliar environment of a gas chamber, and may become panicked by the sights, sounds and smells of the equipment and the presence of other animals. For these reasons, CO chambers cannot be relied upon to consistently produce a humane euthanasia for shelter animals, so their use cannot be condoned.

CO chambers put staff risk: A common fallacy is that the use of CO chambers is safer for staff members than euthanasia by injection because it avoids direct handing of animals. In fact, the opposite is true – the use of CO chambers actually poses greater physical and psychological harm to staff. Staff must still handle, transport and place fractious and fearful animals into the CO chamber, and as such are at risk of bites and scratches. Even otherwise friendly, tractable animals may react adversely when forced into a small, dark, confined space like a CO chamber. And the use of the CO chamber equipment itself poses a grave risk to caretakers, as animal care workers have been injured and killed by carbon monoxide gas.

CO chambers are more costly: A CO chamber must be commercially manufactured and properly equipped and maintained or its operation will be painful and inhumane even for healthy adult dogs and cats. Studies have proven that it is actually more expensive to operate a CO chamber within the strict operational parameters required than it is to purchase and use approved euthanasia drugs.

Most shelters exclusively use EBI: 20 states have already banned CO chambers, and even in states that haven’t outlawed them most shelters have long ago eliminated their use. Euthanasia by injection can be used humanely, safely, and effectively for all animals, from cats and dogs to wildlife and rodents, making CO chambers obsolete and unnecessary.

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