Editorial: A kinder way to kill

  • Posted: Tuesday, November 19, 2013 12:59 a.m.

Eventually, Rowan County will join the majority of other North Carolina counties where animal shelters have adopted euthanization by injection and stopped using the gas chamber to kill cats and dogs.

The sooner that happens, the better. Euthanization by any means is a grim, unsatisfactory solution to the problem of stray or abandoned animals. But if communities must resort to this method of animal control — and for the foreseeable future, we will — they should choose the most humane method of killing unwanted animals. Although N.C. law allows shelters to use gas chambers for euthanization, the method is opposed by the Humane Society of the United States.

Rowan County is one of only a handful of N.C. counties that still use gas chambers as their primary way to euthanize cats and dogs. Those dwindling counties have drawn increasing attention and criticism from local and statewide animal-rights advocates, including a group of protesters who gathered at the Rowan County Courthouse Monday afternoon to lobby for change.

In recent months, two neighboring counties, Iredell and Cabarrus, have decided to switch from the gas chamber to lethal injections. Currently, Rowan officials are also looking at this change, after the county Board of Commissioners approved a pilot program to study the feasibility of the transition. Given that so many other areas have made this switch with positive results, surely it’s possible for Rowan County to do the same.

While animal-rights passion can help trigger change, opponents of gassing shouldn’t portray shelter employees as the villains here. Theirs is a sad, thankless task, under any condition. In most cases, except for those involving unavoidable hardship, the bad guys are irresponsible pet owners who don’t have their pets spayed and neutered, or who simply abandon unwanted animals, turning them into a communitywide problem. You can see the result not only in strays abandoned on rural roadsides but in packs of feral cats plaguing some city residents.

So long as euthanization is necessary, we should do it in the most humane way. But mass extinction of unwanted pets is a poor solution, no matter how it’s accomplished. Reducing the number of unwanted animals and promoting more adoptions are the remedies we need in the long run. A good home is a more humane option than a kinder, gentler death.

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