Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Cabarrus County NC makes a positive move to stop using the gas chamber

Monday, Jul. 29, 2013

Cabarrus County switches to euthanizing animals by injection

Until July 1, Cabarrus County was one of only a few of North Carolina’s 100 counties that used a gas chamber to euthanize animals.

The county had practiced that method for several years. But now, thanks to a recent partnership between Cabarrus County Animal Control and the Humane Society of Concord & Greater Cabarrus County, a county veterinarian administers lethal injections.

The local Humane Society, with help from an inspector with the N.C. Department of Agriculture, pushed to change the method. Judy Sims, executive director of the area Humane Society, said it’s considered the preferred method because it’s more humane and less stressful on the animals, and it’s safer for the people handling the animals. Because of its outreach efforts and its partnership with animal control, the society recently was awarded a $10,000 grant from the Humane Society of the United States.

Sims said they will use the money to educate the public about the new injection method and to buy various items for the shelter, including pet beds, vaccines and brochures that promote responsible pet ownership.

The Humane Society and animal control celebrated their one-year partnership early in July, and Sims said working together has allowed them to significantly reduce the county’s euthanasia rate.“We have seen a steady decline, and the numbers speak for themselves,” said Sims.

In January 2010, more than 90 percent of the animals in animal control’s possession were euthanized, said Sims. In January of this year, that number dropped below 30 percent. In the fourth quarter of 2011, the euthanasia rate for all animals was 76 percent. The following year during the same quarter, that rate dropped to 28 percent. In the third quarter of 2011, the overall rate was 58 percent, compared to 44 percent in the third quarter of 2012.

“Moving from the gas chamber to injections is just the tip of the iceberg for what’s going on in Cabarrus County with regards to their animals,” said Sims. “It’s all about humane treatment of animals. And because we have a rescue coordinator and we’re using social media, we’re able to reach a larger audience.”Before the two groups partnered, Animal Control was in charge of day-to-day tasks and surrendered animals to the Humane Society, which also provided adoption services.

 About a year ago, the Humane Society was awarded a contract from the county to take over some operations at the Animal Control facility on N.C. 49 in Concord. A rescue coordinator position also was added.

“We’ve done a really nice job, and our partnership has been really effective,” said Sims.The gas chamber can hold multiple caged animals, depending on their size, said Sims. Because animals have different breathing rates, the gas may not work as quickly on some – and sometimes not fully on others.

The chamber is roughly 5 feet by 9 feet, with a small window on a door. A cage is rolled into the chamber, which is then sealed, and the gas is released. The gas used is mostly carbon monoxide, said Sims. After the animals have been in the chamber for several minutes, someone has to verify that they are dead. The injection method will eliminate that part of the process.

“When you’re using the gas chamber and you’re euthanizing large quantities, it’s more stressful. And the distribution of the gas is not always even,” said Sims. “When you’re using injections, it’s one at a time; the animals are by themselves … and they just drift off to sleep in a very peaceful manner.”

Johnson: 704-786-2185

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