Gas chamber animal euthanasia: the other side of the story

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Jena Doak, [email protected]

Sweetwater County, Wyoming — There are two sides to every story. Animal rights protesters outside Green River City Hall before the the City Council meeting Tuesday, January 4, told their side.

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“The purpose of our peaceful protest is to educate people about the inhumane gas chamber method of euthanizing animals,” local animal rights activist, Madhu Anderson, told Wyo4News. “We will be respectfully requesting an end to this process,” she said.

Protesters held signs such as, “Tell Councilman Robert Berg stop supporting the cruel gas chamber,” “Tell Officer Tracy Wyant to stop gassing our animals,” and “Green River City Council, ban the gas chamber.”

There is someone who would also like to educate people about the gas chamber: Animal Control Officer, Tracy Wyant, to whom one of the signs, quoted above, was addressed.

Animal euthanasia is an involved, ethical matter, concerning many factors. As an officer of Green River Animal Control, it is Wyant’s duty to safeguard that when the determination to euthanize is made, the means that are used are humane, and are responsibly and appropriately administered by trained staff.

“I’ve been called all kinds of names, such as sadistic,” Wyant said. “I’ve been raked over the coals, and it has nothing to do with euthanasia as being a necessary evil. It is a matter of opinion.”

Wyant has worked as an Animal Control Officer for 24 years, and never once has she witnessed the horror stories that are told about cats and dogs associated with gas chambers, such as clawing and scratching at the door. Once inside a gas chamber, an animal becomes unconscious in 20 to 30 seconds. Before the animal is placed inside, it is given acepromazine, which calms the central nervous system.

“After that, the animal doesn’t know what is going on. The acepromazine calms them in order to reduce as much stress as possible,” said Wyant.

The American Veterinarian Medical Association (AVMA) is “the nation’s leading representative of the veterinary profession, the AVMA advocates for public policy that supports veterinarians and protects animal health, animal welfare, and public health.”

Page 27 of the AVMA Guidelines for the Euthanisation of Animals: 2020 Edition states, under “advantages,” that (1) Carbon monoxide induces loss of consciousness without pain and with minimal discernible discomfort, depending on species.

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Green River Animal Control uses both the injection as well as the gas chamber, depending on the nature of the animal and the staff available.

Fractious animals can not always be subdued. Attempting to insert a needle into an angry animal can result in broken needles, which means that the animal may not receive the entire injection.

Gas chamber euthanasia can be done by one officer. Injections require two people. It is time consuming, entails prep work, and requires finding the correct vein. The office is often limited in the number of staff available. Green River Animal Control cannot be compared to larger shelters or other shelters that have a humane society attached to a veterinary clinic with large staffs.

“People always ask, ‘What about the animal?’ Well, what about the office staff?” Wyant asked

People argue that the process is too stressful on an animal.

“Any time you change the animal’s environment, there is stress,” said Wyant. The more people that are involved, the more threatened the animal will feel, resulting in staff injuries.

Wyant shared that she and her staff often shed tears when an animal has to go down.

“It’s not an easy thing to do,” said Wyant. To be accused of animal cruelty is offensive to Wyant and her staff.

“We prosecute people for animal cruelty. Sometimes we are the only place to give a dog who has spent its life on a chain its only kind touch, a warm meal, and a warm bed. We treat the animals with respect and compassion,” Wyant said.

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