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What is a Good Death?

Ending the use of the gas chamber for homeless animals, one shelter and state at a time

The affidavit filed by former animal control officer Angel Partain said it all: One cat ran back and forth for minutes on end in the carbon monoxide chamber, jumping and slamming his body against the cage as though trying to escape. A puppy who’d been gassed with other animals was still alive and crying after the rest were dead, so he was gassed again, and then again, until he finally died, too.

“The noise from the howling dogs inside the chamber was so loud and sounded so awful,” Partain said, “that shelter workers always tried to get as far away from the chamber as possible once the gas came on.”

Partain was testifying in a case filed in Georgia in March 2007 by former state representative Chesley Morton and a pet owner whose dog had been killed in a shelter’s new carbon monoxide chamber. The use of the new chamber, they argued, was a flagrant violation of Georgia’s 1990 Humane Euthanasia Act, which made injection by sodium pentobarbital the exclusive method of euthanasia for homeless dogs and cats. Under the law, backed by Morton during his tenure in the legislature, a few facilities were allowed to continue operating existing gas chambers, but the construction of new chambers was prohibited.

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