There are multiple ways to euthanize an animal, and one method has McLean County animal rights activists in an uproar. Marion Willetts of the Kickapoo Animal Rescue Alliance says the county is one of few in Illinois that still uses gas chambers to put animals down. Willetts says the process, which places the animal in a chamber filled with carbon monoxide, is an inhumane and frightening process.
"It's questionable whether this is a painless way to die--pretty much depends on who you ask--but it's certainly a very stressful one for the animals, as they are in a strange environment listening to strange and unfamiliar noises in the final minutes of their lives," she says.
Willetts also says gas chambers are a waste of county money.
"A study by the American Humane Association found that carbon monoxide poisoning costs on average $4.98 per animal, whereas euthanasia by injection, which is considered to be a much more humane method, costs $2.29 per animal," she says.
The use of gas chambers is outdated, Willetts also says, and reflects poorly on the county's image.
"It's a sad commentary on our county that we continue to use the gas chamber to kill animals when numerous professional associations, including those of shelter, veterinarians, and animal control facilities themselves, have condemned their use," she says.
Walt Howe, director of the McLean County Health Department, says he acknowledges the county's gas chamber use, but says they only use it for special circumstances.
"The reason that we use the chamber and always have in the past was strictly for safety of our staff," he says. "In all animals that are not ruled to be aggressive, we use the traditional method of euthanization."
Howe says they euthanize a small number of animals per year and prefer to see adoptable pets go to new owners.
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