Crowd rallies to end gassing

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 19, 2013

SALISBURY — Skooter Doodle calmly stood along West Innes Street on Monday, wearing a sign around his neck that read, “Please don’t gas me.”

His owner, Debbye Krueger, of Salisbury, was one of the dozens of demonstrators who turned out Monday evening to protest against the county animal shelter euthanizing animals by gassing them.

“If we’re going to have to do this, let’s choose the lesser of the evils,” she said.

Protestors said the county is wasting taxpayer money by opting to gas animals instead of euthanizing by injection, a method activists say costs significantly less.

Others said Rowan County is one of only a handful of North Carolina counties to continue gassing animals and several opponents called the concept “barbaric.”

Gold Hill resident Terry Kindley said she’s worked in recent years to pull animals slated for gassing from the shelter.

“I’ve been surprised at how many people aren’t aware that this is even done,” Kindley said.

Demonstrators began lining up along the 100-block of West Innes Street around 4:30 p.m. and dozens packed the commission chambers at 6 p.m.

Several spoke during the meeting’s public comment period, detailing the gruesome final moments some animals go through in the chamber.

One Dare County resident even showed county officials a nearly three minute video on a tablet he held above his head. Sounds of howling, crying dogs echoed from the mobile device.

Randy Orloff, president of Project Pets in Greensboro, said Rowan County is one of 12 counties in the state that uses a gas chamber.

Orloff said many don’t realize the suffering animals go through during the process.

“The animals freak out. They get scared and they end up attacking each other for the next 30 or 40 minutes. They attack each other until they’re not able to breathe anymore,” Orloff said. “Unfortunately, some of the times after they wait until all the noise stops, some of those dogs survive — some of those cats survive — and they’re gassed two or three times. That’s more than inhumane. That’s disgusting.”

Orloff said studies have shown gassing an animal is more than twice as expensive as euthanizing an animal by injection, which he said works within seconds.

Kindley said she got involved after efforts began to stir online to find homes for abandoned animals and combat the shelter’s gas chamber.

“They call it ‘social media’ but in this case it’s ‘rescue media’ for us,” Kindley said. “It’s been wonderful to see everybody come together like this.”

Laura Ashby, one of the rally organizers, said she got involved after she learned of the gas chamber online after a Facebook page was created.

Ashby said she hopes the effort raises awareness and prompts residents to learn more about the process.

“A lot of residents don’t know and I didn’t know until several years ago,” Ashby said.

Krueger said she came out Monday to help educate those who aren’t aware of the county’s practice.

Krueger adopted Skooter Doodle, a lab-mix, after she lost her 16-year-old lab this summer.

Skooter Doodle, she said, would’ve gone to the animal shelter if she hadn’t adopted him.

She hopes he’ll one day change a child’s life.

Krueger has leukemia. It was one of the hardest parts of losing her best friend, she said.

“I would go home after chemo and lay in vomit on the floor and that dog was there for me,” she said.

Now she hopes to train Skooter Doodle — after he turns 1 year old — into a therapy dog for children’s cancer wards.

“Maybe that’s one that was just saved from a gas chamber that could change the life of a child,” Krueger said. “You never know.”

Contact reporter Nathan Hardin at 704-797-4246.