By Mannix Porterfield
The last thing many an unwanted mutt ever saw in this world was the inside of a gas chamber.
Now, the practice of putting an animal down with the use of gas is almost history in West Virginia, thanks to a $3,000 grant given the Raleigh County Animal Shelter by the Humane Society of the United States.
In fact, says the organization’s state director, Summer Wyatt, the only county that still operates a gas chamber is Wyoming.
Back in 2009, in a move launched by the HSUS, the state Legislature outlawed the use of gas chamber as a means to euthanize stray animals, but a few that still relied on that method were grandfathered in.
With a financial assist from the HSUS, the Beckley facility now euthanizes animals only via a chemical injection, Wyatt explained.
“They hardly ever euthanize at all,” she said.
“They have a wonderful rescue and adoption program, working with Operation Underdog. They do just a miraculous job of getting these animals out and adopted, so that their euthanasia rate is next to nothing.”
Wyatt said the removal of the gas chamber opens up additional operating space for the facility.
“It also removes the persona that they gas animals, which they haven’t been doing for some time,” she said.
Shelter Director Pam Romansic said the gas chamber hasn’t been used in the year she has worked there.
“I never wanted to use it, had no desire to use it,” she said.
In addition, the grant will allow the shelter to purchase some things intended to enrich the lives of animals kept there.
Romansic said one project in mind entails some kennels out back to retain the animals during routine cleaning.
“We’ve got some makeshift kennels,” she said.
“We want to set up something so we can actually put them in while we’re cleaning so they can get some fresh air and don’t have to worry about them getting out and getting hold of each other. We’re waiting on estimates from the fencing company. That’s my game plan.”
Using a chemical injection removes the element of cruelty attached to the gas chamber, she said.
“Chemical euthanasia is really the accepted form in modern day shelters or veterinary medicine as opposed to gas chambers,” the state director said.
“We in West Virginia are really proud that we have eliminated all the gas chambers except one. Even though euthanasia is a terrible thing, in any way, in any capacity, especially with the millions of animals being euthanized, the least we can do for them is to euthanize them humanely and not make them suffer in those last minutes.”
Wyatt said her organization hopes to work with the Wyoming County shelter to remove the last bastion of euthanasia by gas.
Raleigh County is one of the few animal shelters where feral cats also are accepted.
“They have a wonderful interactive cat room where cats can live in a more normal habitat and move around and play, which contributes to adoption, when people can see how cats would normally live and play and be themselves, rather than just being in a small cage, looking at them,” she added.
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