Please end gas chambers and heart sticks for euthanasia!
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- “At a 6% carbon monoxide concentration, the average time to loss of consciousness has not been precisely determined, nor is it known if the vocalization and agitation some dogs exhibit are signs of distress.”
- “Delayed absorption or circulation of the gas prolong[s] the time it takes to cause loss of consciousness and death.”
- The absorption and circulation of carbon monoxide can be delayed in “animals under 16 weeks of age; animals with decreased respiratory functions; animals who are old, sick, or injured; and animals who are pregnant.” Because “[m]any shelters are unlikely to know an animal’s age and health status … inhumane euthanasias [are] very likely to occur.”
- “Placing multiple animals in a chamber…can dilute the effective concentration of carbon monoxide that each animal receives,” which can prolong the time it takes for them to lose consciousness.
- “Minor gas leaks can cause inconsistent gas concentrations during operation which can cause extreme animal distress and suffering” before death.
Carbon monoxide has drawbacks besides the amount of time it takes for animals’ lungs to fill up with enough of the gas to knock them out:
- “Placing multiple animals in a chamber may…frighten and distress them.”
- “[L]oss of consciousness may be accompanied by convulsions and muscular spasms. It has not been clearly established that these convulsions occur only following loss of consciousness.”
- “Failure to maintain the chamber properly can result in dangerous gas leaks which are known to be hazardous to other animals.”
- “The rapid gas flow rates necessary to achieve the recommended carbon monoxide concentration of 6% can result in noise levels that frighten animals.”
- “Slowing the flow rates to lessen the noise levels will cause a delay in reaching the effective concentration of gas,” which increases “the time necessary to achieve loss of consciousness.”
Intracardiac (IC) Injection
(Injection of Sodium Pentobarbital Directly into the Heart)
An intracardiac (IC) injection involves the injection of sodium pentobarbital directly into the heart, where it is quickly transported to the brain. Injection into a conscious animal’s heart is excruciatingly painful, even if the technician
is able to locate the heart chamber on the first attempt. For this reason, IC injection must never be administered to an animal unless the euthanasia technician has confirmed that the animal is fully unconscious.
Many states and municipalities have laws dictating that
animals must be fully unconscious before an IC injection. Assuming that the technician has ensured that the animal is unconscious, though,
IC can be the most efficient method of administering sodium pentobarbital, particularly if: a) the animal’s veins have been compromised
because of illness or injury; b) the animal’s circulatory system is too compromised to transport the drug from a vein to the brain; or c) sodium
pentobarbital has already been administered to the animal through IV or IP injection but has not effectively resulted in death.
There are few technical aspects of euthanasia that generate more intense debate than IC injection. Stories of conscious animals being injected IC horrify the public, and rightly so. However, when properly administered on an unconscious animal, IC can be a very effective means of achieving a quick, painless death. Shelters can navigate this potential publicity mine field by assuring the public that their staff is properly trained, their policies reflect
the highest standards of humane care, that “heart sticks” are never performed
on conscious animals under any circumstances, and that checks and balances are in place to ensure that humane protocols are always followed.
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