A bill to ban the use of gas chambers at animal control facilities in the State of Michigan has unanimously sailed through the state senate and now heads to the house.
The measure would mandate that lethal injection be the only acceptable form of euthanasia for dogs and cats.
“It’s hard to believe that southwest Michigan is home to the last four counties that still utilize the gas chamber,” said Mich. Sen. John Proos, (R) St. Joseph.
The four Michigan counties that still use carbon monoxide gas chambers have been identified as Berrien, Cass, Van Buren, and Branch.
The euthanasia chamber inside the Berrien County Animal Control shelter still looks the same way it has for the past 30 or so years. “Ours is carbon monoxide, it’s very, very fast. It’s 99-percent proof and the animal simply goes to sleep, they simply go to sleep,” said shelter director Val Grimes.
What has changed is how the machine is now viewed by the outside world. What had long been the industry standard to euthanize unwanted pets is now largely considered inhumane.
“And there's an argument about that, but it’s really hard for me to stand here and say well, injection is wonderful,” said Grimes.
For instance, Grimes says some older dogs have to receive a lethal injection shot directly in the heart and liver.
Furthermore, the safety of staff becomes a question in dealing with aggravated and dangerous dogs that aren’t likely to hold still for a shot.
But Grime’s main fear is that the gas chamber ban will impact the shelter’s current mission to deal with all animals—including problem wildlife.
“And the services that we've worked so hard to establish over the past 16 to 20 years, are going to be gone, and that's too bad. I don't think people understand,” said Grimes. “We have raccoons, possums, skunks, all that stuff is hit on the road or is very sick, we're the only organization in the whole county that picks up this type of stuff if its sick in the school yards.”
While the senate passed ban on gas chambers applies only to dogs and cats, Grimes says that obtaining grants to help shelters offset the higher cost of a switch to lethal injection typically requires a shelter to dismantle and remove the chambers, which makes them unavailable for wildlife.