Even if you accept the premise that kill shelters are a necessary evil and that ownerless dogs should be put down so they don’t live aimless lives as nonpets, wouldn’t you agree that puppy gas chambers are a crime against civilized sensibility and a furtive affront to the cultural memory of the Holocaust?
That’s how more than 100,000 people who have signed a Change.org petition see it. (Maybe not the Holocaust part, but still…) A recent push to end the slow poisoning of little, defenseless, unimpeachably cute dogs with loads of carbon monoxide (and often in groups that, in their confusion and confinement, panic and claw each other apart) is finding footing because frankly, there’s little imaginable that evokes such a breeding ball of depths-of-human-evil associations.
Gas chambers are used in at least 16 states across the US (and not just in the deep South, “I don’t give a flying fuck” states either). It’s banned in 20 other states. Jordan Alvarado, who is spearheading the most recent push, hopes that public pressure will bring attention to the use of gas chambers in Texas and end this "horrific" practice.
But, you of practical thoughts on dead doggies ask: If not gassing, how do you kill dogs?
According to New York City-based Homefront Veterinary House Calls—a vet service that will come to your house and euthanize your Brussels Griffon when his or her time comes—the most humane way to bring about a canine’s final bow is to give the animal a sedative that knocks it out within 5–10 minutes. After that you inject sodium pentobarbital to stop the heart. Sound familiar? Well, the three-drug cocktail used in human capital punishment follows pretty much the same playbook. If you’ve been paying attention, lethal injection has its detractors, too, who claim that it is not painless at all.
Whether carbon monoxide causes pain for animals is up for debate as well. For humans like you, death by carbon monoxide happens because your red blood cells absorb the CO faster than oxygen. Your vital tissues and brain are deprived of oxygen, so you die. According to the Center for Disease Control's website, symptoms of CO poisoning include headache, dizziness, vomiting, chest pains, and then death.
While that sounds pretty bad, there are other ways shelters kill animals that are even more devilishly engineered. One is death by decompression chamber, which, according to PETA, makes the gases in the animals’ sinuses, middle ears, and intestines expand quickly, effectively blowing them up from the inside. And then, there’s always electrocution.
In light of these other horrific styles of doggy death, the question arises: Is it the coddling of our human sensibilities that drives efforts to stop distasteful methods of killing animals? Isn’t the real issue that there are all these dogs that we don’t know what to do with? We thought we’d ask someone who deals in this trade directly. Whether by gas, by pressure, by injection, or by shock, is finding the right way to kill dogs really just about humans feeling humane, rather than saving dogs from their inevitable demises? Here’s what Brandon Krodle, the animal-control supervisor of the Greenville Animal Shelter in Greenville, Texas, had to say.
VICE: Does your shelter use a gas chamber of carbon monoxide to put down animals?
Brandon Krodle:Yes, we do.
Under what circumstances is an animal put down? How long does it need to go without being adopted?
We do not have a set time limit on how long an animal may remain at the shelter. We look at the health of the animal, the behavior, and then whether or not we have space to keep the animal. We are an open-door shelter, so we do not turn anyone away that has an animal to relinquish, we are also the Animal Control and pick up stray and loose animals on the street.
Is it the only way you put down animals?
No. We also use injection.
Why is gassing a method that your shelter has chosen?
We are a small shelter. We have one full-time shelter person, and the rest of the staff are animal-control officers. We feel that it is safer and less stressful for the employees to use carbon monoxide.
When did you start?
It has been in use for 18 years of my career. I do not know when the city first started using it.
Would you consider other ways of doing it?
We use all the acceptable means of euthanasia allowed by the state of Texas. Should the rules change, then we are ready to change with them.
Do you know if the dogs feel pain?
I certainly believe that dogs are capable of feeling pain. I do not believe that there is anything painful about carbon monoxide. We use carbon monoxide from a cylinder, it’s professionally bottled and concentrated. There is no smell. The animals breathe it in and then pass away. It is not unlike someone suffering from carbon-monoxide poisoning in their home from a space heater, they go to sleep and never wake up. I do believe the dogs feel the pain of injection. I don’t know if they feel the drugs used in sedation or euthanasia.
Some people might associate this kind of method with the way Nazis killed people in concentration camps. Does that ever cross your mind?
Never, and I think it’s a huge disservice to all those who died in the war camps to the Nazi experimentation.
Does it ever bother you?
Every euthanasia bothers you, whether injection or carbon monoxide. It’s not something we want to do at any time.
What can guys like me do to help stray animals without homes?
Be responsible. Spay and neuter your pets, make sure they are up to date on vaccinations, make them wear a collar and rabies tag, and get them implanted with a microchip and keep their information up to date with the microchip company. Accidents do happen. Dogs and cats do get away from their owners, and the best way to get them back is to have identification on the animal. Tags get lost, collars get slipped off, but microchips are permanent. Please consider adoption before purchasing a dog or cat from a breeder. Some of the most loving animals come from shelters.