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Debate Over Gas Chambers Being Used In West MI Animal Shelters

Posted: 11:06 PM, Sep 17, 2013
Updated: 2013-09-17 23:06:54-04

LANSING, Mich. – Gas chambers at animal shelters, it’s a debate that Sen. Rick Jones, (R) Grand Ledge, said he’s been fighting for years.

A bill to outlaw gas chambers was introduced by Sen. Jones, recently passed unanimously through the state senate and is currently up for debate in the house.

“When I started,” said Sen. Jones, “we had 12 counties out of 83 using this practice.  We got it down to four with just pressure.  Now I hope we will make it law and we will get the last four done.”

In Michigan there are only four counties, Cass, Berrien, Van Buren and Branch with animal shelters that still use a gas chamber as a form of euthanasia for animals.

Ernie Baker is the the animal control officer in Branch County.  He said the shelter has used a commercial carbon monoxide machine for 20 years because it’s safer for the workers who have to put the animals down.

“A lot of dogs we deal with are aggressive dogs,” said Baker.  “For me, operating by myself, it’s a better method to keep the dogs less stressed and chance of getting bit.”

Sen. Jones said the gas chambers are in-humane, “I saw the films.  They turn the gas on and it takes up to 20 minutes for the dogs to die.  It’s a terrible, inhumane death,” he said.  “Now, I used to run an animal shelter as the sheriff of Eaton County and I know the humane shot is the way to go.”

According to the American Veterinarian Medical Association, it is considered humane however in a 2013 study gases as a form of euthanasia changed from ‘acceptable’ to ‘acceptable with conditions’, meaning you have to have the proper equipment.

The animal control officer said his shelter meets the conditions laid out by the AVMA and adds that lawmakers are looking at the right issue in his opinion.

“We’ve had 290 dogs this year come into the building and I haven’t had to euthanize any dogs,” said Baker.  “That should be the goal of the counties and I wish that would have been the goal of the people of Lansing.”

While Sen. Jones said he’s thinking about the state’s reputation with this bill, “We want to be known as ‘Pure Michigan’.  Where you can come take a vacation.  Not Michigan, the state that has doggy gas chambers.”

If the bill passes out of the House of Representatives, it will make it’s way to the governor’s desk and could be signed into law.