Gas chamber use at the animal shelter hot topic at city council work session

Opposing views on the use of gas chambers to euthanize cats and dogs at the Evanston Animal Shelter took up the majority of time at the city council work session on Tuesday, Jan. 24.  Representing Wyoming Against Gas Chambers were: Madhu Anderson from Rock Springs, Steven Blunt from Green River and Sarah McBride-Kramer. The trio attended the meeting to provide information and make a plea to the city council to stop gas chamber use at the animal shelter.

“The Humane Society reports that animals suffer claustrophobia, vomiting and convulsions when placed in the chamber,” Anderson said. “Most chambers take at least 30 minutes before the animal is deceased. Thirty minutes is a long time to suffer.”

Anderson told the council that there are only three states in the U.S. that still use gas chambers to euthanize cats and dogs: Wyoming, Utah and Missouri. She said Rock Springs stopped the use of gas chambers in 2020. Green River is currently considering eliminating the gas chamber at their shelter which would leave Evanston as the only shelter in Wyoming still using it. The statistics on the slide presentation Anderson used were taken from the Humane Society of the U.S. (HSUS).

Results from the use of gas chambers include causing stress and depression among shelter workers. Anderson said there is also a concern for the safety of the worker if the carbon monoxide were to leak.  She cited a case where an animal shelter worker in Tennessee died after inhaling gas released because of a faulty chamber.  There was also an instance in North Carolina when a gas chamber exploded. Anderson said in 2021, the Wyoming legislature sponsored a bill to eliminate the gas chambers in the state but it failed.

“Injection is the preferred choice of animal welfare groups,” Anderson said. “Gas is also more expensive than injection, almost doubling the cost. The use of gas chambers can damage the reputation of the city that uses it. It is inhumane.”

Council member Jen Hegeman said she had spent the weekend researching the use of gas chambers for animals and talked to several veterinarians, along with checking into information found on the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) website. She had printed a copy of the AVMA protocols for euthanasia in case other council members wanted to read it.

“There are many variables and differences between humane and inhumane euthanasia,” Hegeman said. “Euthanasia requires one staff member and that responsibility takes a toll on the staff member’s mental health and is one of the reasons that veterinarians have an alarming suicide rate.”

Hegeman agreed with Anderson’s statistics that animals suffer extreme stress and claustrophobia when caged and she said 30 minutes is an extremely long time when an animal is confined, fearful and doesn’t understand what is happening.  Hegeman stated that it is important to separate peer-reviewed science from emotion. The AVMA spends countless hours and money in peer-reviewed studies to arrive at their protocols, she said.

Hegeman said the AVMA still considers carbon monoxide an acceptable, affordable form of euthanasia with these considerations: the condition of the gas chamber, temperature, the amount of gas used, and the size, stress, pain and the type of animal. AVMA protocol dictates that the animal should be given a sedative before the gas, and euthanasia must be administered by licensed veterinarians.

“We decide what type of community we want to be by our direction on the continued use of this type of euthanasia,” Hegeman said. “Not only for those without voices but for the employees that are charged with their care and their death. I am solidly behind the humane euthanasia of all animals. From my research, the continued use of the Evanston shelter’s gas chamber for dogs and cats, administered in the most perfect of protocols, is inhumane and barbarically cruel to both the animals and the human staff.”

EPD Chief Mike Vranish was next to address the council on the subject. First, he turned to Anderson and said, “I have the utmost respect for what you are doing; we all want what is best for the animals and I think the use of the gas chambers is the most humane and causes less pain.”

Vranish said the shelter uses the very best equipment, has carbon monoxide detectors in the building, they use 6% quality gas cylinders, and the workers bleach the chamber after each use so the next animal placed in the chamber does not get the death scent and become even more frightened.

Randy Chandler, EPD animal patrol officer and shelter worker, agreed with Vranish and said that he thinks the gas chamber is less stressful on the animals and on the workers. He added that EPD works hard to find homes for the animals first before euthanizing.

Anderson responded, “If gas chambers were more humane then all other states would be using it, not just the three I mentioned. When I visited with people here in Evanston they were shocked when I told them about the shelter’s use of the gas chamber. It is inhumane in people’s eyes. I appreciate your hard work and I thank you for hearing us tonight.”

Mayor Williams said the council would be discussing the issue further and thanked Anderson, Blunt and McBride-Kramer for coming.

Evanston car show

Jon Pentz addressed the council to ask them to become a sponsor/donor for his annual downtown car show.  Pentz said the goal of the car show is to bring visitors to downtown Evanston.  The car show averages 200 vehicles on display in July and is held at the same time as the Brew Fest, which brings a huge economic benefit to the city, Pentz said.

“We don’t charge an entry fee as we want people to come from all over,” Pentz said. “When they do, they stay in hotels, eat in our restaurants and spend money downtown. We have a lot of good sponsors and hope the city will join them. Most businesses donate between $2500 to $3,000 and we use it to purchase very nice trophies and prizes. The trophies are a draw for the car enthusiast to travel long distances to participate.”

Mayor Williams said the council would look into what they could do at their next budget session.

Parking sign

Last topic to be discussed was a request from Trona Valley Community Federal Credit Union.  Branch Manager ShanDee Welling and employees Brittany Clyne and Dani Blakeman addressed the council.

“We have an issue with a tenant that lives across the street from us on Center Street,” Welling said. “He constantly parks in the only space on Center Street in front of our building, on our property line and leaves his vehicle there for 24 hours. We have asked him to leave that spot for our employees and he refuses. We are asking the council for permission to put up a sign stating that space is for employees only from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m, Monday through Friday and violators will be towed at owner’s expense.”

Mayor Williams said the council would investigate the situation further and get back to them.

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