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On saving the world

January 23, 2013

   “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” — Mahatma Gandhi

Brady at Chlo's

I want to go back to just a week ago, when I, blissfully ignorant, did not realize that many animals in shelters across the country are packed in gas chambers and suffocated as a form of “euthanasia.” Being a lifelong animal rights advocate, I can’t believe I didn’t know this until now. I had been researching different animal rescue sites in my search to adopt a puppy to add to our family, and I came across the horrifying revelation. Gas chambers? In 2013? I had thought that, as horrible as it is to euthanize healthy animals simply because there are no homes for them, it was implemented by injection–quick and painless. Yet in my happy search for another dog, I uncovered what many are calling “America’s dirty little secret.” This is a somber and an unpleasant topic, but I do not apologize for it, because it has to be told. Again and again and again, by many voices, until there is change.

According to the “Take Action – Ban Animal Gas Chambers” Facebook page, there are fifteen states in our country whose shelters use gas chambers to kill animals, with eight more states who did not share information about their euthanasia method. Animals are placed in a gas chamber (without sedation) where they suffocate. In some shelters, cats are piled in with dogs, small dogs are mixed in with large dogs, live dogs are placed on top of dead ones, and they all fight each other for the last breath of air. It is often a slow death: sometimes taking twenty minutes or more to kill the animals, who are often packed into the chamber. Some have even had to be put back in for another cycle. It is a barbaric, primitive process.

This knowledge has made it so that lately, my mental energy is focused here, not the novel I’m nearly halfway through. I look at every one of my three dogs and four cats, and I think of animals just like them going in a gas chamber. The puppy I just adopted from a Mississippi rescue was one day away from euthanasia before his litter was pulled from the high-kill shelter…in a state that uses gas. This puppy’s soulful eyes, his baby face, are heart-breaking. I cannot fathom that he could have been one of those killed. I wake up in the night and think of the image I had seen of a dog’s mouth open wide, entitled “One Last Breath.” I think of the photo of the bodies of Shepherd and Lab and hound mixes, the black and brown and yellow dogs of varying sizes, piled up in a metal chamber. I think of their terror and distress, and it is unbearable. But these animals have to bear it – they don’t have a choice.

A couple of nights ago, I posted on my Facebook page a link from the Take Action: Help Ban Animal Gas Chambers site and briefly explained this “dirty little secret.” I said I hoped it would be shared. I apologized for upsetting people and said I didn’t want to bother anyone. And then I got to thinking. People NEED to be upset. We cannot be complacent. Of course we can feel thankful that our pets are safe, loved and well-cared for, but we cannot forget about the millions of other animals who are not so fortunate.

I hope I reach many animal lovers with this post, and that you will want to take action. I am including links below, which I urge you to visit and share. Post, tweet, talk, write. See if your state has a ban on gas chambers, and if it does not, contact government officials. If you are financially able, adopt pets from shelters or rescues. If you can’t adopt, perhaps you can foster. Join a rescue website and share the available animals posted. And in the wise words of Bob Barker, spay and neuter your pets!

My husband teases me about how I want to save them all. And I do. I want to save every terrified cat, every cowering dog. It breaks my heart that I can’t. At the very, very least, I want these animals who tragically must die–through no fault of their own–to have quick, humane deaths at the hands of compassionate individuals. I want to not only raise awareness of this issue, but to bring about change. Ignorance may be bliss…but knowledge is power. We need to save them. And in doing so, we save ourselves.

American Veterinary Medical Association


From → Animal welfare, dogs

  1. I couldn’t get past the first paragraph without hyperventilating. Oh my God.

    • I know, Rachel. I could not believe that it exists. I am furious and disgusted and cannot fathom that any human could participate in this process. It has to be stopped.

  2. Sadly, this isn’t the worst of it. Animals being slaughtered in the US are rarely “stunned” before being hoisted up by the back hooves and their throats slit. The stunning would cost an extra one or two cents. Chickens are hung upside down, their heads submerged in water and electrocuted. When I learned this doing a journalism story some years ago, I gave up eating meat. I won’t even get into how fur animals are killed for their pelts. I’ve used the Gandhi quote too. It has never been more true. Thanks for reaching yet another audience who needs to know what goes on behind walls most of us never want to see beyond. May it never be a dirty secret again. GG

    • Thank you, GG – I am sadly aware of the other examples of cruelty you mentioned and am moved to tears (and action) because of it. It is very comforting to know that there are people like you who care deeply and make changes for the sake of animals.

    • Watching Earthlings was enough for me …………

      • My daughter watched that recently, Amanda, and it made her change what she ate. I’ve heard that’s very powerful but have not seen it yet.

  3. I know your pain and try to help in as many ways as I can by cross posting, adopting, sponsoring/donating, and educating. It’s hard to believe that a country that fought Hitler and everything that he stood for, could do this very same thing to ANY being. What a hypocrital holocaust.

    • Thank you so much for all you are doing! Your statement about fighting Hitler was true and powerful.

  4. It is horrifying. It makes you want to run away and pretend it doesn’t exist; go home and hug your own cats and dogs. Instead of turning away because it is too painful, DO something. Spread the word. Write your congressmen, legislators. Cite the Moran bill. And don’t give up-keep at it. On all fronts of animal abuse and cruelty. There are too many who turn a blind eye or just become angry and call names, neither is effective. We must all become the voice for the voiceless and be the change we wish to see.

    • Mary Beth, thank you so much for your comment. I have been surprised, frustrated and dismayed by the people I know who have pets and whom I consider animal lovers but they are doing nothing. I totally agree with and appreciate with all that you said.

  5. Please continue to spread awareness — I myself discovered gas chambers in March of last year. I make it a point to tell EVERYONE — it is horrid this continues and no one knows about it!!!!!

    • Thank you, Amanda, for telling people as well…it is so hard because people don’t want to discuss awful things. I don’t, either, but we can’t remain silent. I appreciate your speaking out!

  6. I still don’t understand why they haven’t all been banned yet. I have signed petition after petition, as I’m sure many other people have. What a horrible way for anything to die–God bless these poor creatures who end up dying in a gas chamber. What more can we do to get gas chambers banned once and for all everywhere????

    • It is hard to fathom this is happening in 2013. We need to keep talking and spreading the word, as well as speak out to local governments where these kill shelters are. I am drafting a letter to the mainstream media to see if they will do a story on this – it has several angles. I also think putting pressure on the AVMA to reverse its decision of this being “acceptable” – perhaps contacting our own veterinarians and ask them to speak out as members. My own vet told me he thought gas chambers were banned in the U.S.! Please “like” the “Take Action: Help Ban Animal Gas Chambers” FB page if you’d like more information. Thanks so much for your support.

  7. It is a disgusting & outdated practice. They shouldn’t be allowed to call it ‘euthanasia’ anyway, it’s a term reserved for a mercy killing & there is no mercy in murder.

    • I totally agree, Andria. Even using the injection method on a healthy animal is killing, not euthanasia.

  8. I couldn’t bring myself to read the gory details about what’s going on in those gas chambers. It’s too much for me to handle. But I will sign a petition and spread the word. Wish there’s more that I can do. I commend that journalist for having the courage – and the stomach – to investigate this sad state of animal cruelty. Hard to believe something like this is condoned by the government. 😦

    • I am with you on not being able to handle the gory details. I will not watch videos on it but have more than enough info to know that this is horrific. Thank you for spreading the word, Jessica – people in states which gas can also write their governors and even local officials, and find out which shelters use gas chambers. I hope local media will get involved. I’m going to be sending a letter and information to national media in the next couple of days and hope it helps. Thanks again for speaking out! With many voices, we can change this.

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