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Gas chamber remains cheaper option for animal euthanasia

By Kathy Chaffin
kchaffin@salisburypost.com
A cost analysis by the administrator of Gaston County Animal Control determined euthanizing unwanted animals by lethal injection is more than twice as expensive as the carbon monoxide gas chamber method.
Reggie Horton based the analysis on the 6,778 animals euthanized at the shelter in 2007.
Factoring in the estimated equipment, supply and labor costs, Horton concluded the total cost of euthanizing animals in the carbon monoxide gas chamber was just under $4.66 per animal vs. just over $11.21 cost of using the lethal injection method.
Based on the 6,778 animals euthanized in 2007, this would amount to an total cost of $31,572 to use the carbon monoxide gas chamber method vs. a $76,008 cost of using lethal injection.
A breakdown of the annual estimated equipment, labor and supply costs for the carbon monoxide gas chamber method is: equipment, $1,274; labor, $21,757; and supplies, $8,540.
This compares to the following estimated lethal injection costs: equipment, $47; labor, $65,001; and supplies, $10,960.
“A great deal of the cost has to do with labor and manpower,” he said.
One of the main reasons the carbon monoxide gas chamber method is more cost-effective, Horton said, is that multiple animals can be euthanized at the same time. “With the flexibility of euthanizing multiple and not individual animals, there’s certainly less time involved,” he said.
Gaston Animal Control, which falls under the jurisdiction of the Gaston County Police Department, uses both methods.
As will be required later this year under new euthanasia rules set by the Veterinary Division of the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Horton said the Gaston animal shelter uses lethal injections for cats and dogs that are under 16 weeks of age, pregnant, seriously injured or sick.
About 60 percent of the 5,762 unwanted cats and dogs euthanized in 2008 were put in a carbon monoxide gas chamber, he said. The other 40 percent were administered lethal injections.
Horton said animal shelters should be able to choose the most appropriate method depending on the health and temperaments of the cats and dogs being euthanized.
The N.C. Animal Rabies Control Association, of which he serves as president, supports both methods “if used appropriately by caring and trained staff.”
Horton said owners who surrender their pets to the Gaston Animal Shelter will sometimes request a particular method. “And we will comply with those requests,” he said.
Euthanasia is an unfortunate reality of too many unwanted animals being born in the community, Horton said, and people not making a lifelong commitment to take care of their pets.
“Animal control has to take the role of the bad guy in this,” he said. “The animal control officers across the state care so much about the animals that we’re willing to humanely put them to sleep because no one else will provide care and comfort for them.”
Horton said he advocates for euthanizing “only humanely, only appropriately, only legally” while working together to reduce the number of unwanted animals going into the shelters.
Read about Gaston Animal Control’s efforts to promote shelter adoptions in Saturday’s Post.
Contact Kathy Chaffin at 704-797-4249.

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