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North Carolina Accident Highlights Concerns About Carbon Monoxide Euthanasia

Incident raises additional concerns about carbon monoxide euthanasia

Incident raises additional concerns about carbon monoxide euthanasia

In July 2008, an electrical malfunction caused a minor explosion in the carbon monoxide gas euthanasia chamber at the Iredell County Animal Shelter in Statesville, N.C.This unfortunate incident demonstrates why euthanasia by injection, when properly performed, is the most humane, safest, least stressful, and most professional choice.

For More Information

 View the HSUS Statement on Euthanasia Methods for Dogs and Cats

 Order The HSUS Euthanasia Training Manual

 View the AVMA Guidelines on Euthanasia

 Read In-Depth Coverage from Animal Sheltering on the State of Carbon Monoxide Euthanasia in the U.S.

According to Chris Royal, the county’s chief animal control officer, a technician operating the chamber at the time of the mishap described an explosion taking place inside the chamber during the euthanasia of 10 dogs. No one was injured.

New Chamber, New Worries

According to a news resport, Royal said it was unlikely that any of the dogs were affected by the mishap because it occured near the end of the carbon monoxide-filled chamber’s 20-minute cycle. Royal told the newspaper that the chamber was installed at the end of March 2008.

The Facts on CO Euthanasia

According to The Humane Society of the United States’ euthanasia guidelines, sodium pentobarbital, injected by well-trained and caring personnel, is the preferred method for providing the most humane death for dogs and cats. When delivered in a commercially manufactured and properly equipped chamber, carbon monoxide euthanasia can be considered a conditionally acceptable method of euthanasia for some animals; however, The HSUS believes it is far less suitable than sodium pentobarbital.

Unfortunately, many states prohibit non-veterinarians from obtaining controlled substances, such as sodium pentobarbital, leaving some shelters no choice but to use the carbon monoxide chamber for euthanasia

Where Carbon Monoxide Euthanasia is Allowed

Currently, 32 states have direct licensing laws. Of these, however, 12 states still allow the use of carbon monoxide chambers, while 8 make no mention of the practice and 12 ban it altogether. The remaining 18 states have no direct licensing laws. Five of these states permit the use of carbon monoxide chambers, 13 make no mention of the practice or have no information available, and one explicitly bans it.

The HSUS is working at the legislative level to encourage all states to implement direct licensing laws that allow animal care and control agencies to have, hold and administer-controlled substances specifically for euthanasia of shelter animals. In these cases, a veterinarian is not required to be on staff, and the agency’s director is granted a DEA license to obtain and administer controlled substances. For shelters, this method—termed “direct licensing—is most effective. By holding agency heads accountable, direct licensing ensures that the drugs are properly accounted for, secured and administered.

Once a direct licensing law is passed, agencies are able to move away from using the carbon monoxide chamber and begin administering euthanasia by injection. However, the passage of direct licensing laws is a very slow process and the new laws do not always allow for access to other ancillary but often necessary drugs such as Ketamine. Furthermore, existing direct licensing laws do not always explicitly ban the use of carbon monoxide chambers.

In addition to effecting legislation, The HSUS is works directly with shelters and local governments to educate them about proper methods of euthanasia, to collaborate on legislative language, and to provide funding and other assistance for transition and training.

Shelter Reviews its Procedures

At the Iredell County shelter, meanwhile, administrators are determining what changes should be made to their euthansia protocol. Kim Intino, director of animal sheltering issues for The HSUS, recently spoke with County Assistant Manager Tracy Jackson to offer assistance transitioning to euthanasia by injection at the shelter. Mr. Jackson stated, “Iredell County has not utilized its euthanasia chamber since July 22nd, and we continue to examine which method, or methods, of euthanasia are most appropriate for use at our Animal Shelter. The HSUS's offer to provide support and training is very generous and will be given full consideration.”


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