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It’s Time for Harrisburg to Pass Some Gas

Posted by Karel Minor in Uncategorized

 A Gas Chamber Euthanasia Ban, that is.  

You may know that some animal shelters and animal control facilities use gas chambers to kill animals.  The recent case of the beagle named Daniel who walked out of a gas chamber leaving behind eighteen of his asphyxiated doggie pals highlighted the use- and misuse- of these death chambers.  But that was in Alabama, not Pennsylvania, right? 

Unfortunately, Pennsylvania permits the use of carbon monoxide euthanasia chambers, too.  There are supposedly several in operation today but since there are no reporting requirements, no one knows how many might be pumping away as you read.  

These chambers are cruel.  They suffocate animals which are wide awake.  Imagine drowning in air.  They are dangerous for the operators.  There has been at least one human death and multiple injuries as a result of gas chamber malfunctions.  Daniel the survivor shows that it’s also not entirely reliable. 

Even the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), which seems to insist that the vets it represents have open access to any ol’ means of killin’ animals they so desire, has stated that lethal injection is the most “rapid”, “reliable” and “desirable” means of euthanasia and is the “preferred method of euthanasia for dogs, cats, other small animals and horses.” 

It is time to put an end to the use of these gas chambers.  It is time for the legislature in Harrisburg to act and pass Senate Bill 1329, which is known as Daniel’s Law.  

SB 1329 is a good, if not perfect, bill, which has the approval of virtually every special interest group it impacts (barring one perhaps).  First, it prohibits gas chambers and inhalant euthanasia.  Second, it provides for special licensing of animal control and animal shelters, along with training requirements, in order to allow them to obtain and use the preferred humane industry standard euthanasia technique: lethal injection with sodium pentobarbital or a derivative.  Third, it puts reasonable control of the licensing in place.  It’s that simple. 

Who would oppose such a simple bill which would bring Pennsylvania into the 21st century?  To be honest, for years it was the sheltering community because previous proposed bans did not provide for direct licensing for euthanasia drugs.  This would have forced rural shelters to close their doors entirely.  Remember, not all animal shelters are as fortunate as HSBC to have great veterinarians on staff and some can’t even get a local veterinarian to allow them to use his or her DEA license to order drugs, which is what most do across Pennsylvania.  However, SB 1329 fixes that by allowing shelters be directly licensed. 

There are little things here and there which even I have a problem with.  For example, the approval of training programs for euthanasia technicians to be licensed under SB 1329 fall to three out of State groups (NACA, AHA, and HSUS).  While these are all organizations which have good positions on this issue and have offered excellent euthanasia by injection training programs for decades, I’d like to see a reputable in-State authorizing body added to that list such as the University of Pennsylvania Veterinary Medical School or Federated Humane Societies of Pennsylvania (which currently has statutory approval of humane law officer training).  But if that’s the way it needs to pass, I’ll take the imperfect and no gas chambers over the perfect not being passed into law. 

Speaking of objections, a rumor has been circulating that the Pennsylvania Veterinary Medical Association, the professional veterinary affiliation group, opposes the strict ban on gas chambers provided by SB 1329.  Well, not entirely strict since SB 1329 already includes exemptions for medical schools, veterinary schools, research institutions, and “normal agricultural practices”.  I truly hope that these objections are not accurate reports because it would mean the PVMA is trying to make sure your family veterinarian has the option to offer you gas chamber services if she wants to.  Do you really think she wants to?  Why don’t you ask your vet the next time you visit what he or she thinks about the PVMA standing up for the “right” to gas pets in vet practices? 

But sometimes reality doesn’t allow the perfect (or perfectly humane) when the good is an option.  If the PVMA really feels so strongly that their professional membership need to have gas chamber euthanasia as an option in their back pocket, they should just say so and I’ll gladly support them in their call for that exemption, since I know HSBC vets won’t ever avail themselves of that “right”.  But I hope PVMA, if it is really opposing this ban, will show a little compassion and a little common sense about how tone deaf that would be and allow it to move forward as is. 

We have a chance to get SB 1329 passed and signed into law.  But you need to make it happen by contacting your State Representative and Senator right now.  Ask them to both support and co-sponsor SB 1329 and to ask their party leadership to bring the SB 1329 up for a vote swiftly.  Tell them that you don’t want Pennsylvania to be one of the states which allows antiquated and inhumane euthanasia practices like gas chambers any more. 

Today is Election Day in an off year election so you don’t get to vote for Senators or Representatives, but next year you will.  Remind your Senator and Representative that you will remember how they vote on SB 1329 this legislative session when you go to the polls and decide who you will vote for in 2012. 

Find your legislator by County, ZIP code or address by clicking here. 

Get more information about SB 1329, Daniel’s Law, at prime sponsor, Senator Andrew Dinniman’s website by clicking here. 

Contact Senator Dinniman and thank him for his leadership on this issue by clicking here.

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