The bill is named for a puppy that survived gassing in a North Carolina shelter and was later found alive in a dumpster. Davie was rescued by a family who stopped by the dumpster to drop off trash and heard him crying from inside a plastic bag.
In North Carolina, 32 public animal shelters use carbon monoxide gas chambers and other methods to kill homeless animals. Davie’s Law calls for all animal shelters to convert to using euthanasia by injection (EBI), which is considered the most humane and painless death for animals. Davie’s Law would require that all shelters remove gas chambers from their facilities by April 1, 2011.
The bill is endorsed by the American Humane Association, Animal Law Coalition, North Carolina Coalition for Humane Euthanasia, In Defense of Animals, Born Free USA, and many veterinarians and animal welfare organizations. The bill requires humane euthanasia by injection of sodium pentobarbital, or an alternate oral version of the drug, for all animals euthanized in the custody of shelters.
Sixty-five animal shelters in North Carolina currently euthanize primarily by injection, and fifty-nine of those report using this method exclusively. Employees in those shelters have been trained to safely deal with wildlife and aggressive animals. In the 32 county and city shelters that still use gas chambers, some use commercially manufactured units, while others are crudely built units constructed of cinderblock, metal, and wood.
Witnesses, including veterinarians and animal shelter personnel have reported seeing animals struggle to escape gas chambers as they howl and cry. “With respect to animal welfare concerns, carbon monoxide can produce agitation and convulsions in the animals before death,” said Dr. Paula Kislak, a veterinarian.
“I will never forget what I saw,” explained Alice Singh, Board Member of the North Carolina Coalition for Humane Euthanasia, who witnessed the gas chamber in use at the shelter in Yadkin County. “The dogs were trying to jump out of the large metal box, only to fail with the many other dogs in the chamber with them.
“The screams from that box will never escape my memory, nor will the many scratches inside of the box, or the blood in the bottom left after removing the dogs,” she said.
Singh has been working to end the gas chamber for eight years in counties throughout the state. Since that time, 17 county shelters have made the change to humane euthanasia by injection.
Gas chambers can also be hazardous for shelter workers. Inspections from government agencies including North Carolina Department of Labor, North Carolina Department of Agriculture, North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, and local fire marshals in Reidsville and Stokes County have revealed leaking and malfunctioning gas chambers and gas cylinders, which have in many cases exposed workers to high levels of carbon monoxide.
A recent study from the American Humane Association by national Animal Care and Control Consultant, Doug Fakkema, shows that euthanasia by injection is less expensive than the gassing in every scenario. This study was based on recent figures obtained from North Carolina animal shelters.